‘Good time to be in business,’ Alliance Bus Group Says

COLLEGE PARK, Ga. — Alliance Bus Group enjoyed about a 10 percent gain in sales revenue last year on roughly flat unit sales, thanks to sales of larger, more expensive vehicles, and its chief executive projects gains on both fronts this year thanks in part to strong transit orders.

Alliance CEO Doug Dunn said he anticipates annualized revenue growth of about 20 percent this year, while total unit sales are projected to increase by 10 percent based on the current backlog and projected retail and transit sales.

The College Park, Ga.-based company sells new and used transit buses, cutaways and school buses, and is the exclusive U.S. distributor of CAIO motorcoaches and Vicinity buses in the heavy-duty, midsize transit market.

It also offers parts, service, refurbishment and financing.

Alliance has dealerships in College Park and Forest Park, Ga.; Orlando, Fla.; Carlstadt, N.J.; Slidell, La.; Hudson, N.H.; Jackson, Miss.; and Lewisville, Texas.

Alliance did almost $113 million in sales revenue last year and sold about 2,000 units across myriad manufacturer makes and models. About 90 percent of sales were new vehicles and about 40 percent were in the transit market.

The company saw an uptick in transit sales in 2016 and has already won some large bids that will deliver in 2017, Dunn said.

Alliance was scheduled to begin delivering the first of 34 buses to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport in February – 35-foot ENC EZ Rider IIs and 40-foot Axess – with the remaining units likely delivering later in the year.

The company has an option for 67 more of the units on a contract worth $25 million to as much as $50 million. The CNG-equipped, low-floor heavy-duty buses will replace DFW’s current fleet.

Alliance also is a supplier for New Jersey Transit — for which hundreds of units are on order — has some bids coming in this year with New York State and is expecting significant orders from the state of Florida.

“We’ve got the largest backlog we’ve ever had, so I’m kind of proud of that, at this time of year,” Dunn said.

He also is excited about the transit potential for the Vicinity bus. The 30-foot model completed successful testing last year at the Altoona test facility in Pennsylvania with what Dunn said were best-in-class results, and received Buy America certification.

Vicinity, made by Grande West Transportation Group Inc. of Vancouver, B.C., has already sold well in the U.S., but with completion of the Altoona testing and Buy America certification, it’s now available to transit agencies using Federal Transit Administration funds, he said.

With more than 4,000 units sold into the transit market every year, “we feel like this product could replace a growing and significant percentage of those sales,” Dunn said. “We are very close with some major agencies here in the U.S. to get started with programs selling buses into those agencies.”

Customers for Vicinity – which comes in 27.5- , 30- , 35-  and eventually 40-foot models – include anyone looking for an accessible heavy-duty bus on a cost-effective platform, he said. That’s primarily transit agencies and municipalities, but there also has been interest from colleges and commercial enterprises.

In January, Grande West announced the addition of clean-air propulsion options for its Vicinity bus line in the form of clean-burning, low-emission Cummins ISB G engines for delivery on 2017 orders.

The ISB G engine, powered by CNG, has the lowest North American emissions standards and is approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Air Resources Board in California, Grande West said.

The certification represents a major emissions reduction well below current EPA nitrogen oxide emissions standards, providing the cleanest engine in the bus industry, the company said.

On the motorcoach front, the CAIO continues to gain market share, Dunn said of the coaches built in Sao Paolo, Brazil, by Caio Induscar.

This year marks 10 years in the U.S. market for CAIO, he said, with Alliance as its representative for the last five years.

“While every new product entry will take its nicks and bruises in the beginning, it’s been a positive learning experience that we’re constantly working to improve upon and we’re very proud of the strides that CAIO motorcoach has taken and believe the CAIO has carved out its own niche in the U.S. market,” Dunn said.

Alliance in 2015 began selling CAIO’s S-series, which has been well received and comprises about two-thirds of new CAIOs sold, he said. Alliance sold about 40 CAIOs last year, with additional units put in service on multiyear leases.

On the parts and service front, Alliance keeps refining its offering.

The company continues to offer everything bus-related on the parts and service front, and since rolling out its online parts shop at www.AllianceBusParts.com in 2016, anticipates building upon its early successes there, he said.

“We’ve really stepped up our parts department and our ability for our online parts and (are) just continuing to improve that all the time and make ourselves more efficient, hold pricing down for customers and make sure we have the right parts at the right time,” Dunn said.

“The most important thing for Alliance Bus Group continues to be the fact that we are ‘Along For The Whole Ride,’” he said, citing the company’s motto.

“Nothing is more important to us than the relationships we develop with our customers and helping them achieve successes and really becoming a partner with them,” Dunn said.

Alliance continues to invest in and build on the infrastructure necessary to effectively support the diverse product line and offerings it has available, he said. The company also continues to refine its financing options and solutions, he said.

“It’s amazing to me that you’re continuing to find new and better ways for your customers to finance things and put them into their fleets and the financial marketplace is good when people are really aggressive trying to place money, so we’re continually on top of that,” Dunn said.

The company, with about 150 employees, also added some key management and sales and service positions last year.

“It’s a good time to be in business,” Dunn said. “With the new administration and the changes and the market going crazy and interest rates still low and credit available, it’s a pretty good time right now.”

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