NASHVILLE—After two years of contraction in bus sales, Motor Coach Industries (MCI) foresees growth and is investing in the products and sales and service infrastructure that will be needed to meet anticipated market demands.
“We are making investments—some would call them bets—for where we think the industry is going to go and make sure we are as far out as practically possible and ready to support it when it grows,” MCI President Ian Smart said at the company press conference during Motorcoach EXPO.
“The coach market has gone through some significant cycles. The nominal market last year was 1,700 to 1,800 units. Ten years ago it was half that,” he said. “We are doing what we need to do to maintain and grow our share.”
MCI expects to benefit this year from models it launched in 2019, Smart said. “We had a successful launch of our J3500 model. We have put about 40 of them in our customers’ hands. The other product we introduced last year was the D45 CRT LE, the low-entry vehicle, and we have delivered a number of those to private and public customers. We have seen some real interest in that product out in the Bay Area of California in the employee shuttle market.”
Smart also discussed MCI’s first steps into an international reach with its 2019 acquisition of Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL), which is based in Larbert, Scotland, and is the largest bus and coach manufacturer in the United Kingdom. It sells and manufactures its products globally.
MCI, parent organization New Flyer and parts affiliate NFI Parts “are predominately North American,” he said. “The rationale for acquiring the ADL business was to venture out into international markets. It was a big step to get us into the international environment. Having good access to markets in the UK, Europe and the Pacific Rim allows us to understand how those markets work, compare the products to our existing products and look for opportunities to grow over a major threshold.”
Brian Dewsnup, president of NFI parts, described the growth in that company’s business. “We are part of a bigger group that produces vehicles more than just the MCI family. Last year we started supporting our cutaway operators, so we now supply parts for motorcoaches as well as cutaway vehicles.
“Our cutaway business is called ARBOC, and we are excited about that aspect of our business as well,” he said.
Employee shuttle and limousine operators are presenting new opportunities for motorcoach manufacturers, so specialized vehicles are being developed, said Brent Maitland, MCI’s vice president of marketing and product planning. “This is a dynamic time for the market. We used to just bring a J coach and a D coach to the show. Now we are having to show different segments of the business how we tailor the vehicles.”
He described the “high-spec” J4500 parked behind him, painted black and carrying a high-end black interior. “That visual appeal ties in with the fleets of black cars and SUVs that the limo and livery fleets are running.”
He also touted the popularity of the 35-foot J3500 motorcoach. “It has a lot of commonalities with the J4500. It has a very similar interior, the driver area is similar and the same suite of advanced driver assistance systems. It has a smaller engine and a different cooling package because it doesn’t need the horsepower that the big coach has.”
MCI is accepting orders for two battery-electric motorcoaches, J4500e and D45 CRTe LE CHARGE, that will enter production at the end of the year and are expected to interest employee shuttle operators. “Our electric coach is out in test demo now. That’s why it isn’t here,” Maitland said.
MCI demonstrated its maintenance and service telematics program that will be launched mid-year and enhanced training programs for operators and technicians.