With a 60-year history in vehicle manufacturing, TAM Europe’s expertise as a producer of airport buses may be founded in the past, but it’s innovation that newly appointed CEO Bryan Zhao sees as vital to the company’s future, even as competitors remain rooted in the present.

"We’re witnessing an era of revolutionised growth and invention, of innovation – you can’t expect a product to occupy the same position for long," says TAM Europe CEO Bryan Zhao. "Everything is either innovating or being replaced. We must find better solutions for our products – even if customers are satisfied with them."

With over 80% of TAM’s output devoted to airport buses, Zhao is well versed in customer preferences for airport transportation. Stability, quality and safety are prioritised in TAM’s VivAir series of airport buses, offering five standard and one VIP version available to IATA and airport safety regulations. With a convenient Slovenian location, compliance with EU manufacturing regulation is guaranteed and all European airports are within easy reach of cost-efficient delivery and maintenance.

In the three years since its takeover by China Hi-Tech Group Corporation, TAM has made use of the conglomerate’s expertise to mature into a major competitor with Cobus and other players. For Zhao, however, the market waits for no one, and he constantly looks ahead for inspiration.

"R&D should drive product growth," he says. "Regardless of competitors’ operations, we must constantly change to be better."

Green growth

Zhao sees the ‘going green’ trend as crucial, from consumer cars to public buses, and he is determined to get ahead within TAM’s own industry of airport transport.

"Soon, most countries will mandate further airport-emission reductions," he says. "It’s hard to limit aircraft emissions because of their fuel, so reducing emissions will involve airport vehicles and equipment, and low-emission vehicles will be crucial. That’s where R&D is crucial, and that’s why we already have plans for an EV [electric] airport bus."

As well as allowing greener transport within airports, Zhao believes that TAM’s EV bus and other innovation in sustainable technology can help the company grow its existing coach business and expand into new markets, like public transport. He views green technology as a potential leveller within the transport industry, where big players haven’t yet established a strong foothold. He emphasises, however, that if TAM is to compete with such players as Mercedes, Volvo and Ford, it must become a leader.

"It’s a great opportunity to join the list of bus and transportation suppliers," he says. "But we not only have to keep up; we must also be faster."

He hopes, too, that knowledge gained in these sectors can boost what is and will remain TAM’s mainstay – the airport bus.

Make the connection

It isn’t just green technology that interests Zhao – nor does he believe that suppliers should limit their outlook: "We’re very conservative, as an industry. We’re still focusing on ‘making the bus’ and, until recently, I don’t think any of us had considered what it actually means to the operator or passengers during their ten minutes on board.

"At TAM, we’re now thinking about this; everything is changing with new technology and, if you lack the vision, you’ll get left behind."

Zhao recognises the potential impact of forthcoming 5G technology, for example, which will see devices, machines and people more connected than ever via the internet of things. This brings revenue potential to operators, he says.

"What can this big, full bus bring to the operator and passenger when it’s connected? Can we provide a platform for communication and advertising to companies seeking to advertise in the airport? It’s a big question. And, with new technology, TAM can realise it."