We’re as proud of where we’ve come from as where we are today.
Although Volgren officially began trading in 1977, our history as a bus company dates back much further than that and it’s impossible to tell the Volgren story without beginning with the Grenda story.
In 1945, George Grenda, a man who had established and run a successful milk carrying venture for 20 years, moved into the bus business, purchasing four routes and six vehicles. Within a year, he had sold his milk business to concentrate entirely on buses, all of which travelled between Dandenong and an eastern suburb of Melbourne.
This was the beginning of the Grenda Corporation and the first chapter in an Australian manufacturing success story that is still being written today.
The growth of a city and a business
In the 1940s Dandenong wasn’t a suburb of Melbourne so much as an outpost – a small country town, really. But it was also the logical gateway to Gippsland. And it was on the rise.
By the middle of the 1950s it was the fastest growing area in Australia. As well as becoming popular as a residential zone, it became a significant industrial centre – large factories were built on Princes Highway to accommodate companies like General Motors Holden and HJ Heinz. Many workers travelled to these factories by train and needed buses to commute between the factories and Dandenong Station.
At the same time, the children of the post-war baby boom were reaching school age and new schools were established to take pressure off Dandenong High. Again, buses were required.
Grenda Bus Services thrived as Dandenong did, and by the 1970s Grenda Bus Services had become a hugely successful route bus company while also running coaches throughout eastern and central Australia. The company had at the same time developed a reputation as one of the best bus body repair shops in Melbourne.
The move into manufacturing – Volgren is born
In 1977 Swedish vehicle manufacturing giant, Volvo, asked Grenda to become its chassis distributor in Victoria and southern New South Wales. By this time, the leaders of the Australian company, which had for many years used American and British buses, could see that European chassis were the way of the future. They accepted the invitation.
As part of the partnership, the name Volgren – bringing together Volvo and Grenda – was born. The new relationship also brought about a second affiliation – one with the Swiss company Hess, who built bus bodies from extruded aluminium (most buses were then – and to a large degree still are today – made from steel).
With all the pieces now in place, Volgren built their first bus, made from Hess aluminium, over the top of a B58 mid-engine Volvo Chassis, in 1979.
Independence and growth
In 1987 Volgren Australia Pty Ltd was formed and the formal agreement with Volvo came to a conclusion. Our new independence allowed us to begin building on chassis other than those manufactured by the Swedish manufacturer.
Between 1999 and 2004 a series of state government and city council contracts helped to change Volgren from a successful Victorian company into an expansive nationwide manufacturer. We built a factory in Perth in 1999, in Brisbane in 2008 and in Newcastle, two hours north of Sydney, in 2009.
While our operations were expanding, our factory in Dandenong continued to go from strength to strength. In 2008 we celebrated the 2500th bus body to be built there. Two years later we delivered our 5000th bus body in total across all our factories.
A changing of the guard
In 2011, the Grenda Bus Services arm of the business, still going strong, was sold to Ventura Bus Lines.
In February 2012, after more than 30 years of full ownership, the Grenda Corporation – still a family-owned company – sold a majority stake in Volgren to Brazil-based Marcopolo SA, one of the world’s largest bus body manufacturers.
You can read more about our parent company on our Marcopolo page.
For more information on Volgren bus bodies, bus sales or to enquire about after sales service, contact us on (03) 9791 4255 or click here to complete our enquiry form.