When Dixieland Tours received delivery of its first Prevost coaches earlier this year, there was quite a celebration at their headquarters in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Prevost pulled out all the stops to deliver the two, brand-new 2022 H3-45 StreamlinePlus coaches decked out in Dixieland Tours’ trademark black. The delivery featured representation from members of the Prevost sales, parts and service teams, as well as a red-carpet rollout that was greeted with applause from the company’s drivers.
“The drivers were so very excited,” Dixieland Tours President, Lori Guyton said. “When I first made the announcement, they all went berserk! I had no idea how they thought about Prevost. That is the ‘Mack daddy,’ they said. ‘It can’t get any higher than that!'”
Three more Prevost motorcoaches will arrive at Dixieland in 2023, and the goal for future purchases is very aggressive, she added.
Service challenges led to change
While some industry challenges spurred the decision to make changes within the Dixieland fleet, Prevost won the order by showing a willingness to go above and beyond to support the Baton Rouge operator’s maintenance needs.
“We’ve been (with one brand) for years, ever since we’ve been in existence, really,” Guyton said. “It was a hard decision to switch over, but it was clearly a business decision.”
The move was triggered by Detroit Diesel Corp.’s 2019 decision to discontinue production of its DD13 engine for motorcoach applications at the end of 2021.
The DD13 has been original equipment in MCI and Van Hool motorcoaches. The departure of Detroit Diesel, a subsidiary of Daimler Trucks North America, leaves the engine market to Cummins, Volvo (Prevost and Volvo motorcoaches) and Mercedes-Benz (Setra motorcoaches).
“That created a bit of an issue for us because here in Baton Rouge, we have a hard time finding anyone that wants to work on buses,” Guyton said. “And right down the street from us, we have a very good relationship with our diesel warranty shop.”
Dixieland has mechanics, but depends on Baton Rouge Diesel for quick, responsive service so coaches aren’t out of commission for weeks at a time.
“We’ve known the owner for many, many years and his service is top-notch, second to none. That means a lot in our industry,” said Norman “Bubbie” Augusta III, Guyton’s brother and business partner.
Prevost took the initiative
Prevost was proactive in helping the company figure out a solution by working with Baton Rouge Diesel.
“When we started talking, they took it upon themselves to go down to Baton Rouge Diesel and get them certified to be able to work on Volvo engines and be able to do the warranty work. At that point, it’s a no-brainer for us,” Guyton said.
Prevost’s VIP delivery was a new experience as well.
“They put one huge gray bow on the front of it and rolled out the red carpet, and we cut the ribbon,” Guyton said. “It was really nice.”
Previously, Dixieland picked up new coaches at a service center, but there was something special about having the red-carpet treatment at its own facility so employees could take part.
“It’s never happened at our location,” Guyton said. “It was a big deal because we had drivers that were dying to come to see it, everybody was all excited, and it was a lot of fun.”
Efforts to get Baton Rouge Diesel to be a Cummins warranty dealer failed because the engine manufacturer “has so many service centers that they don’t want to dilute the market,” Augusta said.
“It’s definitely Cummins that’s the roadblock,” he said. Augusta also explained the conversation the Dixieland team had with its mechanics before the decision to make the change to Prevost and the Volvo D13 engine. “They were perfectly fine with it; a lot of it is easier access on the engine side,” he said, referring to the ease of access to the engine bay and components on the Volvo D13.
Strong presence in Orlando
Prevost’s 9-bay service facility in the Orlando area was another factor in the decision to buy from the manufacturer, which has the largest service network in the industry.
“During certain times of the year we have a good 80 to 90% of our fleet in Orlando at one time,” Guyton said of the Florida destination that is a 10-hour drive from Baton Rouge. “It’s nice to have that service center there in case something happens.”
Dixieland Tours is known for sleek, ebony buses that stand out from the competition’s traditional white vehicles. And that won’t change.
The coaches have very little signage, just the name on the back that says Limo Series Green Coach, letting people know the vehicles are also fuel efficient — which is important to customers.
Guyton and Augusta are the second generation to helm the business, which was purchased in 1995 by their father, Norman Augusta Jr., who wanted to diversify his longtime travel business.
At that time, he persuaded Guyton to leave her job of 10 years with American Airlines in Texas to join him and help with the businesses. Eventually, she shifted to Dixieland operations in Baton Rouge.
She took over as president in 2010, bringing on her brother to oversee operations in 2013. He transitioned from a 17-year career in the insurance industry, where he worked in property and casualty claims. Today they run the company together and continue the vision of their dad, who died in 2015, five years after being diagnosed with stage four colon cancer.
With a 21-bus fleet, Dixieland serves a wide customer base, including custom charters, military, school and university users, conventions and airport/cruise transfers. The company is well-respected in the industry and was honored with the Large Fleet Operator Vision Award at the 2019 UMA Motorcoach EXPO in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
“At least (our father) was able to see us working together for one common goal, and I think we’ve done very well since he passed away,” Guyton said. “I think he would be very proud of us right now.”