The company Karosa has a long tradition in the automobile industry. The origins of the production of means of transport in Vysoke Myto go as far back as 1895, when Josef Sodomka founded the company "The First East Bohemia Production of Carriages of Josef Sodomka". The first bus body was built in 1928 following a design by Sodomka on a Skoda 125 chassis. Buses were to follow based on Praga, Skoda, Tatra, and Walter chassis. The company achieved considerable success in the sphere of bodywork studies and the bodywork itself. In 1930 Josef Sodomka JR. became owner of the company.
The first city bus, built on a Praga NDO chassis, was produced in 1939 and the following year production of the fourteen unit series of trolleybuses was begun in co-operation with the companies MAN and Siemens.
In 1947 the prototype was built of a luxury coach on a Skoda 706 RO chassis with a capacity for 40 passengers offering a high level of comfort, adjustable seats, on-board refreshments and a toilet. Production was begun on intercity and city versions of the Skoda 706 RO bus.
In 1948 the company was nationalised and its name changed to "Karosa, factory for bodywork and vehicles, national enterprise, with headquarters in Vysoke Myto". The following year the name was again changed, this time to "Karosa, national enterprise of Vysoke Myto". In the fifties important progress was represented by the production of the bodywork of the well-known Skoda 706 RTO bus. With its extraordinarily long working life and revolutionary construction this innovative vehicle meant the beginning of industrial know-how for Karosa. Production of this bus was terminated in 1971 after a total of 14,451 units had been manufactured. In 1966 the range of products was successfully augmented by the SM 11 type of bus distinguished by its unique panel construction which involved the body being assembled from six panels. Production of this model ceased in 1981 and the number of buses produced attained the figure of 26,544.
In 1972 the production equipment was extended with the building of a new factory, including a comprehensive modern assembly line, in order to satisfy the growing demands of customers.
In the eighties production of the new 730 bus range was begun with new constructional and technological improvements. The engine from Likinsky Bus Plant (LiAZ) was used (later with a turbo supercharger) and situated behind the rear axle. An automatic gearbox was used for the city bus version of the B 731. This new range of products was constructed to meet the requirements of the transport of passengers. These were city and intercity buses, a coach for long distances, and articulated buses which are still being operated today in many countries around the world.
The change of the political system in Czechoslovakia in 1989, together with the fall of the Eastern bloc, brought fundamental changes in the organisation of production and on the market for means of transport. The process of privatisation was made even more complicated by the break-up of Czechoslovak Federal Republic and the creation of the Czech Republic. Eastern markets, especially the Russian market, acquired a different economic character. Orientation on Western Europe had to take into consideration conditions of production and marketing in this developing region which had rarely been respected in the past..
In 1986, 3,410 buses were manufactured. However, after the break-up of Czechoslovak Federal Republic and the creation of the Czech Republic in 1989, the production dropped by approximately 1,000 buses a year (in 1991 1,629 units were produced and 945 units the following year). The newly emerging business of tourism and public transport needed fundamentally innovative products which required a non-tradition processes and totally new construction designs.
On 1 July 1993, Karosa joint stock company was created and employing 1,706 people involved in the manufacture of buses. From the remaining plants of the former state enterprise Karosa become an independent privatised company. Negotiations between Karosa and the French company Renault V.I. led on 2 November 1993 to the creation of a joint company.
In December 1996 Renault V.I. bought up 17% of shares from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and acquired a 51% stake in Karosa. During the course of 1998 it bought a further 21% of shares from investment funds and small shareholders.
On 2nd February 1999 a joint company was created out of the French Renault and the Italian Iveco with the name Irisbus Holding S.L. owning 94% of shares in Karosa, coordinating the purchase of strategic components, the industrial policy and development. The companies Iveco and Renault V.I. integrated their activities in the sphere of the production of coaches and buses into a business of international dimensions - the second largest manufacturer in Europe and an eminent company on a global scale. 50% of the company is owned by Renault V.I. and 50% by Iveco.
In May 1999 Karosa founded in Slovakia the 100% subsidiary company Karosa s.r.o. with its headquarters in Bratislava. The aim of the company is to build a network of contractual partners looking after sales of new buses and after-sales services.
On 17 October 2001 the companies Renault and Iveco signed a conclusive agreement allowing Iveco to acquire the participation of Renault (50%) in Irisbus Holding. At the same time Renault V.I. and Irisbus reached agreement on the delimitation of economic and business relations between the two companies for the transitional period necessary for Irisbus to become totally autonomous.
In 2001, 1303 buses were manufactured at the modernized plant. An important part of production is directed not only to the Czech and Slovak Republics but also abroad.
This passage is adopted and modified from Karosa a.s.
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Page created: 2 April 2003
Last updated: 29 May 2005