Optare plc is a bus manufacturer based in Sherburn in Elmet, Leeds, UK. Its parent company Ashok Leyland, part of the Hinduja Group, is ranked within the top five global bus manufacturers.

The company operates two main business units, Bus Manufacturing and Product Support and manufactures a full range of bus types from minibuses to full-size single deckers, with a new double-decker currently undergoing preproduction testing. As well as bus manufacturing, the group operates a nationwide and international sales division, together with the Optare Product Support parts and service network.

The Optare name originated in 1985, with a new business formed from the remnants of the Charles H Roe operation which had been closed in 1984 by its owners Leyland Bus. The closure was in anticipation of a steep decline in demand expected to result from the deregulation of bus services. In order to differentiate itself from its competitors, the new company’s philosophy was to offer its customers more choice, hence the name Optare which is Latin for “to choose”.

Deregulation brought about a time of changing and challenging market conditions for UK bus manufacturers, with the breakup of the nationalised manufacturing industry dominated by British Leyland and its subsidiaries, and the breakup of the traditional home markets through the deregulation of bus services and privatisation of the Scottish Bus Group, National Bus Company, PTE operations and many municipal companies.

In the consequent upheaval in markets and demand through the 1980s and 1990s, the Optare business underwent several changes in ownership, but on the whole, retained its senior management. During this time Optare benefited from the development of close relationships with particular customers who were not necessarily tied to larger suppliers, through political or corporate ties. Wilts & Dorset and Reading Buses became notable loyal Optare customers, with several high profile new London operators also choosing Optare as a market differentiator, such as Harris Bus's use of the Optare Excel. Optare also introduced several technological innovations, with an early electric buses trial, introducing the first UK low-floor double decker, the Optare Spectra, and the ground breaking Optare Solo ("so low") low floor midibus, both in 1997.

In its early years, Optare developed a number of body on chassis products but now only builds fully integral designs which have the benefit of low weight, high strength and market leading fuel efficiency. The company has also exported a number of models.

Read more about OptarePreservation, Optare Product Support (formerly Unitec), Coach Imports, Current Competitors

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