|Type||Private company with limited liability – GmbH, subsidiary of MAN Nutzfahrzeuge AG|
|Founded||1 July 1935|
|Number of locations||Plauen, Saxony, Germany|
|Key people||Joachim Reinmuth, Chairman of the Board of Management
former designers: Albrecht Auwärter, Bob Lee, Konrad Auwärter
The company was founded by Gottlob Auwärter in Stuttgart in 1935, and manufactured bodywork for bus and truck chassis. From the very beginning, the designs of the buses produced were considered stylish. After World War II, an all-steel body design was developed, a rarity at that time. By 1953, the company had moved away from manufacturing buses on truck chassis, to a partial monocoque design with a steel tube skeleton, providing the structural support, enhanced by welded side panels. The engine was moved to the rear, and the running gear and body functioned as one. In 1957, air suspension was made available, improving the ride of the bus for passengers.
In 1961, a new bus design, the Hamburg, was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show. At a time when most coaches were rounded, bulbous or streamlined, the new design had clear-cut lines with edges and large windows. Developed by the founder’s eldest son, Albrecht Auwärter, and another student, Swiss national Bob Lee, as part of their dissertation at Hamburg University. The design also allowed every passenger to regulate their fresh air supply through a nozzle from two air ducts, commonly seen today.
Both Albrecht and Lee joined NEOPLAN after graduating from the university. Albrecht took over management of the company in 1965, and Bob Lee later became head of Engineering and Design.
1947 Auwärter Mercedes Benz OP3750 v
In 1964, the founder’s second son, Konrad Auwärter, developed a double-deck bus design for a service bus as part of his dissertation. The ‘Do-Bus’ design had low weight, and could carry over 100 passengers. It also featured a low-frame front axle with forward-mounted steering gear that permitted a low flat floor. The double-deck principle was applied to the coach design, creating a high-capacity comfortable touring vehicle. This vehicle was known as the Skyliner.
In 1971, the Cityliner was introduced to the public. This design had a passenger platform above the driver’s cab, and included an onboard toilet.The vehicle also made use, of glass-fibre reinforced plastic for certain areas of the body, this was the first instance when this technique was used. In 1973, the Jetliner was introduced, featuring a large one-piece windshield, with the driver and door windows sloping from the passenger window line down to the bottom of the windshield level.
In 1975, the Jumbocruiser was launched, a double-deck articulated coach 18 metres (59 ft 1 in) long and 4 metres (13 ft 1 in) high. The Spaceliner, introduced in 1979 took the Cityliner concept of passenger floor level above the driver, and extended the actual floor above the cab. This kept the height of the vehicle lower than a double-decker, at 3.65 metres (12 ft), but still allowed installation of toilets, kitchens or sleep cabins below the passenger compartment.
A new fourth plant was added in 1981 in Berlin, and Bob Lee led the establishment of a fifth plant in Lamar, Colorado. In 1984, a further plant was added in Honey Brook, Pennsylvania. The United States plants were later spun off into a separate, and now defunct, independent company (Neoplan USA) that used the NEOPLAN name under licence.
In 1980, the United Kingdom deregulated services over 35 miles (56 km) in length. This led to intense competition on a variety of long-distance services, with operators looking to differentiate their service. NEOPLAN vehicles, with their futuristic design and high quality construction, began to be imported in greater numbers.
The Metroliner was introduced in 1988. This vehicle was the first full monocoque bus in the world, requiring no separate chassis or skeleton.
A manufacturing facility was opened in Ehrenhain in 1990.
In 1992, the 15 metres (49 ft 3 in) four-axle Megaliner was introduced, prompting a change in European Union regulations to allow non-articulated vehicles greater than 12 metres (39 ft 4 in) in length. The Starliner was introduced in 1996, and would go on to win the Bus of the Year award for two consecutive years – in 1998 and 1999.
In 2001, NEOPLAN, or correctly, “Gottlob Auwärter GmbH & Co KG” was acquired by MAN AG subsidy MAN Nutzfahrzeuge AG to form NEOMAN Bus GmbH. The Starliner won the Bus of the Year award for two more consecutive years in 2001 and 2002.
A new coach designed for touring was introduced in 2003 under the name Tourliner, and the Starliner was redesigned in 2004 and included the Electronic Stability Programme (ESP). The Trendliner was released in 2004, as a ‘dual purpose’ intercity and combination bus – which is designed to be used seven days a week.
In 2005, two new shorter 13 metres (42 ft 8 in) versions of the Tourliner and Trendliner were released. From 2006, Euro4 compliant engines from MAN began being fitted in the new generation Cityliner.
On 1 February 2008, NEOMAN Bus GmbH was fully integrated into the Bus Division of the larger MAN Nutzfahrzeuge Group, and ceased to exist in its own right. NEOPLAN and MAN AG Buses now operate as two separate but integrated marques of MAN Nutzfahrzeuge Group. As a result of the reorganisation and restructuring of the Bus Division, NEOPLAN will concentrate on production at its Plauen and Pilsting sites, with Plauen being used for luxury coaches, whilst Pilsting will concentrate on customisations.