Berna-built trolleybus in Biel, 1979

A 1951 Berna trolleybus in service in Bienne in 1979

Berna was a Swiss manufacturer of buses, trolleybuses and trucks, which later also specialized in surface metallurgical treatments and components. Until the 1960s it was primarily a vehicle manufacturer, but between 1965 and 1978 vehicle manufacturing was phased out and replaced with other products. The company was based in Olten.


The company was founded in 1902 by Joseph Wyss and changed its name from Schweizerische Automobil Fabrik Berna (S.A.F.B.) to Motorwerke Berna AG in 1906. The company intitially manufactured cars, and Wyss was its first car designer. Berna's first car, made in 1902, was the Berna Vis-à-Vis Idéal. Another model was powered by one-cylinder engines, which were placed on the rear. In 1903, a new car called the Unicum was produced with the engine placed on the front and the back wheels were powered by chains. By 1905, Berna was also building trucks/lorries.

Berna 4 UPO Autobus 1946

A Berna 4 UPO autobus of 1946.

In 1907, Wyss sold the company to a businessman named Locher, who eventually went bankrupt.[citation needed] The company came under English control in 1908, and production of cars ceased, but it was bought back by Swiss shareholders in 1912, and reorganized as Motorwagenfabrik Berna AG (Berna Motor Vehicle Factory).[1] In 1929, following a period of financial difficulties, Saurer acquired majority control of Berna.[1] Manufacturing of trucks and buses continued, including trolleybuses starting in 1940.

In 1965, Berna branched out into metallurgy with two new subsidiaries in the United States and Germany, selling the metal treatment product "Bernex". Vehicle manufacturing was taken over entirely by Saurer in 1976, and Berna AG became a wholly owned subsidiary of Saurer.[1] In 1978 the company had 650 employees and realized 55 milllion CHF in sales.[1] In 1995, Berna AG had 160 employees and 45 CHF in sales.[1] In 2003, the Saurer Group sold the company, which had gradually separated into two divisions with different specialties, and the sale resulted in the establishment of two new but affiliated companies, Bernex Bimetall AG and IonBond AG Olten, both still sharing the same site in Olten.


Production of trolleybuses lasted from 1940 to 1967 and included both two-axle and articulated vehicles.[2] All were sold to Swiss transit systems. Although the total number made was only 131, they were purchased by seven of the country's 15 different urban trolleybus operators,[2] or approximately half of all urban Swiss trolleybus systems existing during the period. A few 1965–66 Berna trolleybuses are still in passenger service in 2010 in Valparaíso, Chile,[3] whose trolleybus operating company bought them secondhand from Geneva and Schaffhausen when they were withdrawn from service there in 1992.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Hans Brunner (23 March 2009). "Berna" (in German). Historical Dictionary of Switzerland. Retrieved on 2010-07-27.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Murray, Alan (2000). World Trolleybus Encyclopaedia, pp. 72–73, 116–117. Yateley, Hampshire, UK: Trolleybooks. ISBN 0-904235-18-1.
  3. Trolleybus Magazine No. 292 (July-August 2010), p. 88–89. ISSN 0266-7452.

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