by Adrian-Liviu Dorofte

SETRA outlines future generation 500 series

The premium bus brand SETRA celebrated the 60th milestone of its prestigious history during 2011 and is now working at full throttle for the development of the next series of buses and coaches: the 500. The current 400 range has been on the market since 2001 and it was already time a worthy heir would come to the throne. The new generation of people transporters from the Ulm-based company will be officially revealed at the end of 2012, with the entirely revised lineup remaining to be filled with several variants under the three vehicle classes (Top-, Comfort- and Multi-) in the course of the coming years. Among the first body versions to be released we mention the MultiClass 515 NF urban bus and the TopClass 531 DT grand cruiser, according to latest reports. Read more about the future plans of SETRA, as well as about the design philosophy and the technical innovations of the firm headquartered at Ulm, Germany, in the press kit posted below!

SETRA Design Workshop 2012: Evolutionary design distinguishes the Setra brand

Setra customers know that the touring coach they are travelling in meets all legal requirements, boasts exclusive comfort-increasing equipment and brings the driver and passengers to their destination in the highest possible level of safety. This is, in part, thanks to the designers at EvoBus Development, a Daimler brand that has always been known for its uniqueness in the branch, not to mention its unmistakably liberal style; EvoBus are thus able to complement the classic Setra values of comfort, value, quality and customer-oriented variance.

Right from the very first sketch, the top priority of the designers from the Daimler Buses development team is to combine the functionality of a new Setra bus with an extraordinary appearance and thus set the scene for a strong brand presence.

“Our aim is to continue developing the appearance of the renowned Setra brand from series to series, without losing sight of tradition while at the same time building a bridge between what has already been achieved and what it yet to be explored,” explains Mathias Lenz, Head of Design at Daimler Buses. Head of the Design department in Neu-Ulm since 2010, Lenz explains that it is not just a case of being allowed to continue using existing ideas, rather a necessity: “Setra buses represent evolution”. At an early stage of the development, the six designers incorporate form-based ideas into the conceptual design work, thereby turning on its head the universally accepted design principle of “form follows function”, according to which the design is derived from the intended function.

Design work starts with a so-called “package” from the Development department. These clearly defined specifications include, among other things, the dimensional concept and the new technical objectives that must be met by using an effective modular design concept as a large number of common parts guarantees cost-effective bus production, despite a wide range of vehicle variants being available.

A brand which generates passion

In their creative work, not only do the designers incorporate current European legislation concerning safety systems and the reduction of exhaust gases, but also the ideas and requirements of the Setra Sales department. Another top priority here is thus a clear definition of the three relevant target groups: companies, drivers and passengers. Mathias Lenz explains: “While the future operator seeks an attractive, high-performance product with high value retention, the focus of the driver is on reliability and functionality. The priorities of the passengers are comfort and convenience.” It goes without saying that all three look for a safe vehicle whose quality and appearance illicit a sense of pride. After all, the design of the bus represents the Setra brand, which must in turn demonstrate the Setra values in the European bus market as well as generate a passionate response from the industry. The buses from the Neu-Ulm production site thus need to satisfy the current demands of operators and, at the same time, plant a seed for future generations.

In order to be able to answer tomorrow’s questions today, the designers open their eyes and ears to the world, visiting trade fairs and meeting with bus companies and associations. With their flair for future trends, they are able to establish a sound knowledge base. As Mathias Lenz explains, “there are no short-term trends in the bus industry.” Despite having a very independent appearance, every Setra vehicle is harmoniously incorporated into the overall product family. In the first instance, this is achieved by distinctive style features and key elements which communicate the same identity across the entire portfolio, but at the same time, each bus additionally displays a very individual design idiom.

From the sketch to the design freeze

Completion of the design development process takes one year, from the first sketch to the design freeze. Once the design data has been approved by the Management Board at Daimler Buses, the data for the new bus is “frozen” for subsequent development stages and subsequent modifications to the design cannot be made.

During a design meeting lasting several days and generally held at a neutral location outside of the Neu-Ulm Development Centre, the entire team gets started on sketching initial ideas and suggestions. In addition to pencils and paper, the technical specifications and samples from the current product portfolio are all that is available. What results is a multitude of design ideas which the group sort at a later stage. Mathias Lenz: “We basically assemble the initial bouquets from a meadow full of colourful flowers.” Initial discussions with the relevant project managers from Development follow, as well as with the employees from Brand Sales. There are then three final concepts to choose from, which require further elaboration and rendering. Rendering involves the generation of a sophisticated sketch using computer graphics, providing an initial impression of the material, size and shape of the new bus.

This virtual design process grants designers quick and simple access, facilitating speedy verification and alignment of the current data by the relevant development engineers. Mathias Lenz: “As the design of the new bus progresses, this synchronous collaboration within the individual development areas is very important for achieving solid results without any great loss of time.”

This constant exchange takes place from the beginning of every process step, for example, during the tests carried out in the Daimler wind tunnel in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim, where designers and aerodynamic engineers make subtle adjustments to a 1:4-scale clay model which can be easily moulded. The aerodynamic airflow guarantees a reduction in fuel consumption and thus represents an important aspect of economic efficiency. It gives designers the opportunity to create a vehicle “face” with very distinctive features.

Following the subsequent photometric scanning of the model, the data obtained is incorporated into the existing data model.

For a 3D representation, the data models are prepared as a realistic model, which can be rotated in real time and which serves as the basis for the final decision regarding the design freeze.

Basis for tool manufacture

Even after the go-ahead has been given for the design freeze by management at Daimler, minimal changes may still be made in agreement with Testing and Production. The model is also used as a basis for prototype construction, after which the tool manufacture data can be passed on to the relevant suppliers. The work of the designers doesn’t end there, however, with Mathias Lenz and his team involved in all further development processes, from the exterior to the interior, from market presentation to the start of series production.

It is not just the design idiom that plays a central role in the overall design process, but also colour, material, surface finishing and treatment. With these “trim and colour” aspects, the internationally active design team uses their expertise to provide every new Setra touring bus with a clear identity.

SETRA Design Workshop 2012: Unmistakable face

Innovation and tradition are two values that are inseparably linked with the Setra brand. As too is the consistently trendsetting design of the Ulm-based bus manufacturer, which has gone from strength to strength over the past 60 years and is responsible for the unmistakable face boasted by all its vehicles.

It all began with the first German bus with a self-supporting body that left the assembly hall in Ulm’s Weststadt in 1951. The S 8 impressed the experts with features such as a streamlined exterior, modern driver’s cockpit and good accessibility to the engine compartment.
The buses from the 10 model series, started in 1953 (1953 – 1967), also had a round design, however the front and rear were considerably flatter when compared to the S 8, thereby giving them a more compact form. The ventilation and heating systems were operated via a central ventilation duct which guided fresh air into the outermost corners of the passenger compartment. Sliding windows in the upper part of the side glazing and six roof hatches also ensured the vehicle was well ventilated. Only the S 7 model series launched in 1965 had the angular design which appeared two years later as part of the 100 series.

The emphasis on the roundness of the first Setra generations gave way to a more clear and linear design in the 100 series (1967 – 1976), marking a significant change in the bus construction sector. The heating and ventilation system was also upgraded and an air-conditioning system with cross-flow blowers introduced. Due to the high side windows, the standard glass-bordered roof option could be omitted for touring coaches. Further advantages included the full-length luggage compartments, corrosion-resistant, anodised light-alloy components on the window frames, bumpers, front grill and mouldings, as well as the underfloor protection.

The predecessor to the diverse 200 series was the S 200, presented at the International Motor Show in Geneva in 1973. One particularly impressive feature of this super-high-deck touring coach was its bonded glazing. This highlight, doing away with what had always been prominent window pillars, really raised the style stakes for modern bus design and triggered plenty of imitations. The vehicle already featured the innovative cross-flow ventilation system, which saw air entering and exiting the vehicle at the sides above the windows.

The 200 model series (1976 – 1991) boasted a design featuring no‑nonsense clear lines which represented practicality, efficiency and long-term value, while passengers were provided with an unmatched level of interior comfort.

The 300 series (1991 – 2001) represented a new era – also in terms of design. One of the most striking features of the new buses was the pronounced sweeping line behind the cockpit area, as well as the newly developed integrated mirror system that gave this model series its unmistakable face. The mirror arms could be heated and adjusted from the inside, and, despite initially being referred to as “rabbit ears” or “bug antennae”, provided the driver with all-round better vision in conjunction with the optimised A-pillars. This mirror system was immediately adopted by the industry and still inspires many competitors today. Another impressive feature was the ergonomically designed cockpit.

The most striking feature of the 400 model series TopClass touring coach is, without a doubt, the further-developed sweeping lines referred to as “La Linea”, a high-gloss aluminium trim, which stretches all the way to the rear. It is not only a visual highlight, but also conceals the side air inlets for the new cross-flow system. The integrated mirror system from previous models was also revised and moved from the A-pillars to the side walls. Thanks to creative technical thinking on the part of the engineers and artistic input from the design team, it has been possible to introduce a completely new sense of space in these vehicles, with seemingly free-floating luggage racks and indirect ceiling lighting.

Setra milestones and innovations

Karl Kässbohrer sets up in business as a cartwright


Kässbohrer start building buses 


The first self-supporting bus, the Setra S 8, is launched 


At the International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt, Setra introduces independent air suspension on buses for the first time 

Launch of the Setra S 6 at the Geneva Motor Show


First Setra modular system and first articulated bus with self-supporting body in Europe


Setra becomes the first bus manufacturer to fit a retarder as a wear-free braking system 


Launch of the 100 series and series introduction of independent air suspension


The 200 series, featuring the new cross-flow ventilation system, goes into series production. Over the next 15 years, this series will generate a multitude of new developments, including a three-axle high-deck touring coach especially for the US market and the first low-floor bus for rural regular-service operations in Europe


Setra introduces the first double-decker coach, the S 228 DT (Double-deck Touring coach)


ABS introduced as standard on all buses and coaches 


Launch of the 300 series with new integral mirror system and exterior styling, plus ergonomically designed driver cockpit and, for the first time, a multifunction display system as standard 


The Setra S 315 HDH is voted "Coach of the Year 1993" 


The Setra S 315 NF is voted "Bus of the Year 96"


Setra presents the TopClass 400, setting new standards in terms of technology, design and equipment. In the same year, this new generation of touring coaches is voted "Coach of the Year 2002" at the "Busworld Kortrijk" show


Presentation of the S 431 DT double-decker coach at the IAA International Commercial Vehicle Show in Hanover 

Launch of the S 415 HD in right-hand drive

Sale of the 1000th TopClass 400 vehicle


The S 417 for the North American market is officially launched in February at the United Motorcoach Association (UMA) show in Orlando, Florida

The S 415 HD in right-hand drive is shown at a specialist show for the first time at the "Coach & Bus" show in Birmingham in September

Launch of two vehicles in the new-design ComfortClass 400 at "Busworld" in Kortrijk, Belgium
Sale of the 1500th TopClass 400 vehicle

From October onwards, all TopClass 400 and ComfortClass 400 vehicles are fitted as standard with the Electronic Stability Program (ESP)


Launch of the Setra S 415 GT at the 60th IAA International Commercial Vehicle Show in Hanover 


Early March marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of the Setra S 6 compact bus at the Geneva Motor Show in 1955 

In March, the northern German coach operator Imken Touristik takes delivery of the 3000th TopClass 400 vehicle – a Setra S 415 HD

In June, during an event to demonstrate the reliability and ride comfort of the low-floor bus S 315 NF held at the RVO (regional transport authority for Upper Bavaria) in Berchtesgaden, the 10,000th MultiClass vehicle, an S 315 UL, is handed over to the transport authorities of the town of Ludwigslust in the north-east German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern

Coach operator Birkmaier takes delivery of the 1000th ComfortClass 400 coach, a Setra S 415 GT
At the "Busworld" trade show in the Belgian city of Kortrijk in October, the brand launches the first two models in its new generation of rural regular-service buses, the MultiClass 400, in the form of the Setra S 415 UL and the Setra S 417 UL

Launch of the new proximity-controlled cruise control (ART) and Continuous Braking Limiter (DBL) safety systems in the TopClass 400 and ComfortClass 400 touring coaches


In early February, the 1500th Setra coach goes to Belgium. The milestone coach is an S 416 HDH with glass roof 

The 5000th touring coach from the TopClass 400 and ComfortClass 400 series is handed over on 7 March. The vehicle, an S 416 HDH with a glass roof, proximity-controlled cruise control (ART) and 50 comfortable reclining seats, goes to the Swedish tour operator Stigen Buss AB in Stigen


Setra is once again represented at the United Motorcoach Association (UMA) show, in New Orleans, Louisiana, this time with two S 417 models from the TopClass 400 generation of touring coaches. The highlight of the show that year is the 500th Setra S 417, which was produced for the North American and Mexican market, and was in fact already sold 

Setra supplies its 90,000th vehicle since the brand came into being in 1951. The S 416 HDH, a model in the TopClass 400 generation of touring coaches, is handed over to coach operator Arnold Reisen in the German town of Dietmannsried, near Kempten im Allgäu, in February

The "Busworld" show in the Belgian city of Kortrijk is the setting for the brand to launch its new Setra TopClass 400 generation of vehicles. Following a comprehensive facelift, these touring coaches now offer considerable improvements in quality, engineering, safety and comfort

Setra supplies its 500th S 431 DT double-decker coach, which goes to coach operator Voyages Demy Cars in Luxembourg. Another milestone vehicle, the 500th S 411 HD touring coach, goes to coach operator Fischwenger in the Austrian town of Strasswalchen, near Salzburg

The Setra Show 2007 is the first to take place in the new Setra CustomerCentre in Neu-Ulm, which is also the home of the company's state-of-the-art DesignCentre


The 10,000th touring coach in the 400 series, an S 416 GT-HD/2, is handed over to the Turkish coach fleet operator Varan Turizm

In August, tour operator Avanti Reisen becomes the first coach company in the world to drive from Germany to China in a touring coach, a Setra S 415 HDH

At the IAA International Commercial Vehicle Show of this year, the brand has ten exhibits from its current product range on show. These include the world premiere of the S 419 GT-HD ComfortClass 400 model 

The low-floor S 415 NF MultiClass 400 bus is voted "Bus of the Year 2009"

Setra supplies its first touring coach fitted with the advanced emergency braking system Active Brake Assist (ABA). The owner of the S 416 HDH from the new Setra TopClass 400 series is tour operator Reisedienst Bölck


At the United Motorcoach Association (UMA) show, in Orlando, Florida, Setra launches two versions of the S 417 designed specifically for the US market. At the same time, the 25th anniversary of the brand's sales and marketing activities in the US are marked on the stand with the display of an S 6 from 1955


Setra hands over its 2500th bus from the MultiClass 400 series. The vehicle goes into service with German bus operator Albtal-Verkehrsgesellschaft

The 4000th ComfortClass 400 vehicle is delivered to coach operator Berr in the Upper Bavarian town of Bruckmühl

The facelifted touring coach Setra TopClass 417 is launched at the United Motorcoach Association (UMA) show in Las Vegas, Nevada

The 20th anniversary of the start-up of sales and marketing activities in the former East Germany
At the IAA International Commercial Vehicle Show in Hanover, Setra exhibits its current product range, together with a new generation of passenger seats


Setra celebrates a double anniversary: 60 years of Setra, 100 years of expertise in the bus and coach industry. A Special Edition of the TopClass, limited to just 60 units, is launched to mark the occasion 

The United Motorcoach Association (UMA) show in Tampa, Florida, sees the launch of the new Setra ComfortClass 407 touring coach, built to typical American design specifications

The Ulm-based bus and coach brand celebrates its 60th anniversary with a number of events. 2011 also marks a century since the start of bus and coach building in Ulm

Mid-March sees the handover of the 100,000th Setra vehicle since the brand was founded. The TopClass S 416 HDH is a member of the Special Edition which Setra unveiled in its anniversary year

At "Busworld" 2001 in the Belgian city of Kortrijk, Setra launches eight coaches in the current model series, including the ComfortClass Final Edition in the guise of an S 415 GT-HD


The brand delivers its 1000th Setra TopClass 400 double-deck touring coach. New owner is the Austrian Dr. Richard group, Central Europe's largest private bus and coach operator

Electronic Stability Program ESP comes as standard in the US touring coaches from 2012 onwards.
The bus and coach brand within Daimler AG attends the UMA Motorcoach Expo in Long Beach with two coaches. The show stand was host to a TopClass S 417 and a ComfortClass S 407

Credits: Daimler AG / Setra S431 dt | Facebook

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