NASHVILLE—Daimler Coaches returned to Motorcoach EXPO with its established Setra 417 but had plenty of new developments to discuss.
Daimler announced on Jan. 10 that it had formed its own North American distributorship, Daimler Coaches North America, by assuming the shares of REV Group in the former REV Coach LLC that had handled sales, parts and service for Setra in the U.S. and Canada.
“Daimler is excited about the U.S.,” said Zane Gray, director of marketing for Daimler Coaches. “They have a very strong foothold in the European markets. They see this is one of the largest areas for growth in the world.
“The competition is very strong. Industry guys say there is a ‘big three’—MCI, Prevost and Van Hool. We are gunning for calling it the ‘big four.’ We feel we have the most opportunity of any other competitor to be that fourth guy,” he said.
For 2020 Daimler plans to stand pat with the Setra 407 transit coach and the 417 luxury coach while working with Daimler Trucks North America and Detroit Diesel Corporation to expand parts and service availability. Both, like Daimler coaches, are divisions of Daimler AG, which is headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany.
“Parts is the number one focus right now,” Gray said. “Right now we only have a parts facility in Fort Worth, Texas, but in a short amount of time we are going to have centers in Florida, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and California. We have to focus on parts first because nothing happens if you don’t have parts.”
Daimler also is focusing on establishing four service centers this year and will consider additional facilities later.
“We are reaching out to Detroit Diesel because we have seen our competitors spend millions and millions of dollars building service locations, and many of them are struggling to bring in enough service work to support that location,” Gray said.
“So why shouldn’t we piggyback off the locations out there that might be looking for service work, that already have mechanics who just need a little (motorcoach) training? They already have the structure and buildings in place.”
Daimler press releases pointedly described the split from REV Group as amicable and cooperative. The decision to form an independent distribution arm was based on efficiency goals, Gray said.
“If you look at the ‘big three,’ only one of them is not a true direct seller from the manufacturer. ABC is the only middleman we see now in the ‘big three.’ Even Temsa now is direct-sell. We are going from having the middle dealership distributor to selling direct so we can be competitive in the market and there is not a third party in the middle chewing up margin,” he said.
Also, he added, Daimler believes there is potential in North America.
“Daimler has been here for a very long time. In the last eight to 10 years they have been on a bit of a normalized level—it hasn’t grown, it hasn’t really fallen. They see the U.S. and Canada as areas for growth,” Gray said.
“Daimler is fully committed. They want to show by actions, not words, what they can do for this market. The industry has been shaken. We believe we can shake it up even harder in a positive way.”
Daimler Coaches is based in Fort Mill, South Carolina, and is part of the global Daimler Buses organization.