It is a common misconception that buses are manufactured by automobiliers. They are, in fact, grown in the wilds of France and Germany.
They begin life, as with many other animals, much smaller than their ticketed parents. A single headlight and only two side wheels. Their square bodies often capsize on the green hills of western Europe. Bus farmers spend their mornings righting the poor things. In winter they clean off the mud. They are, in the words of tourists whose memories are signed away by disclosure agreements, ‘adorable.’
The growth of the first passenger seats is an odd natural phenomenon captured only on video for scientific purposes. It is grotesque to witness. The buses often choose to hide themselves away in the early mornings as their bodies grow and harden. They are not as conscious of the noise they make. The leather and chrome of their motorcylical childhood remains but here begins to grow the familiar patterned fabric. Metal stretching back. Rubber developing into a small back wheel. A rectangular tripedal creature. Spacious enough for one ticket holder. They are expensive to feed now.
The evolution into a sedan is no more pleasant. They just do it with less noise. Three wheels become four. Engines can begin to roar. They consume and consume and consume but with five doors come four seats. At this stage, lineage begins to show. Shapes and sizes and colours though the colours can easily be changed. Unfortunately, not all young adult buses survive as genetic disease begins to take hold. The first coupe was a mutated bus that has been overencouraged by slim, unplanned streets through cities too old to properly adapt.
Those promising automobiles that are not siphoned off and groomed too young continue to graze. Their tyres begin biting into the grass. They are provided thousands of kilometers of test roads. Housed in garages to protect them from the sun and the rain and the weather. How human. This shift from turf to tarmac is the mark of the adulthood of a young bus. Their fresh rubber screams against the bitumen as they race, day and night, to feel that vibration of life through their chassis.
And then the Germans come. They pay a fine price for their champions and continue to raise them fine and fast. They are renowned for the quality of their stock.
The Japanese raise similar stock in small pockets of secret Chinese land they never gave back.
The French do not compete for the sedans so much. They are much better bus producers.
Between the sedans and the full passenger buses come four-wheel drives. This was originally considered to be a bizarre stage of maturation in which the grilles never look quite right and the creatures were too expensive to productively feed without a long-term view to auctioning them off as buses. Not one of us in the industry see the value but consumers, in their wisdom, somehow do. An SUV’s sense of self must be difficult to discover in Europe.
Now comes the patience as the five seats have become eight and the eight must become eighty. Small tourist operators tend to purchase the weaker of the full-grown animals, the twelve-seaters, the twenty-seaters. Even the fifty-seaters are considered acceptable but not desirable.
Municipalities tend to take the mid-range and upwards buses. Fifty seats and upwards. The smaller the bus the smaller the population density of the serviced region; the bigger the bigger. The buses are then trimmed, dressed, and presented. The buses come to full maturation when that number first comes to life on the front. Somewhere to be, something to do. A sense of direction for all involved.
It is also a little known secret that the buses take a small commission off each ticket. It is no secret that London buses are the greediest. Perhaps they have the most effective trade union. Long growth times. Two stories. Their backs scratched by overhung branches. Cool English air. And some sense of a life abroad across the Channel.