BIAMAX (pronounced Viamax) is probably the best known Greek vehicle manufacturer, being, at the same time one of the biggest Greek companies at its time with three factories (in Athens, where its headquarters, Thessaloniki and Larissa, employing more than 2000) and several other auxiliary facilities throughout the country. Apart from being a large company, BIAMAX became a leading industry in Greece, in areas including Quality Assurance, technical training, process documentation and Research & Development.
Although its main activity was vehicle manufacture, some of its subsidiaries were also involved in areas like tourist services, exports of farm products and shipping. Its origins date back to the 1930s when the Fostiropoulos family became importers of Mercedes-Benz vehicles. The company with that name was founded in 1956, the name reflecting its original activity, as it started with production of bus bodies on Mercedes-Benz chassis (BIAMAX, stands for 'Biomihania Amaxomaton', or 'Vehicle Body Building Industry'; the name was retained although the company soon became a complete vehicle producer). The first chassis developed by BIAMAX was introduced in 1961. In the same year the famous 'R' series of coaches and inter-city buses was introduced. One of the earliest chassisless bus designs in the world, it was an engineering achievement involing novel approaches in suspension and elsewhere, developed by the engineers A. Rizos (who lent his name initial to the series) and I. Dracoulis (who was responsible for its extremely elegant, streamlined design). Models R495 (inter-city bus) and R514 (coach) became common sights in the country, establishing the BIAMAX brand. In 1962 a trolleybus type was designed and built, with CGE electricals; as an imported type was ordered for Athens instead, only one trolleybus was produced but it nonetheless entered service remaining in operation for more than 15 years.
The very successful 'F' series of city and inter-city buses (named after Fostiropoulos initial, a designation used earlier as well) was introduced in 1968 employing a ladder-type chassis developed by BIAMAX, and, as most of its products, Mercedes-Benz engines. The most common types produced were the F530 and F580, with several body variations for a variety of end uses. At the same time BIAMAX kept producing an extended range of bus and truck bodies, rolling stock, assembling 4x4's and tractors etc., with thousands of vehicles coming out of its factories, many of which were exported to a large number of countries, mainly in Europe, Asia and Africa. R580 types can be seen to this date working hard in the Middle East. Indeed, the legendary reliability of BIAMAX buses can be testified by the large number of surviving examples, most of them in excellent working condition. The company faced difficulties in the early 1980s when some Middle Eastern markets were lost but, mostly, due to a new law (in the early 1990s) allowing import of used buses in Greece. It soon ceased production, focusing on vehicle import and distribution. Since 1999, after an attempt by Sfakianakis to acquire the company was not completed (Sfakianakis acquired only the truck and tractor importing division), all trading activity ceased as well; former parts of the company have focused on shipping and other activities and what is left of BIAMAX operates to date as a real estate management firm.
References[edit | edit source]
- L.S. Skartsis and G.A. Avramidis, "Made in Greece", Typorama, Patras, Greece (2003)
- G.N. Georgano (Ed.), "The Complete Encyclopedia of Commercial Vehicles", Krause Publication, Iola, Wisconsin (1979)
- Denis Miller, "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Trucks and Buses", New Burlington Books, London (1982)
- "Sfakianakis group purchases Biamax and Fostiropoulos" (in Greek), Ta Nea (1998-07-28). Retrieved on 2007-02-27.
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