HAYWARD, Calif.—Prevost has opened its largest service facility in a Northern California community that began as a stagecoach stop for people heading to gold rush country.
More than 150 years later, Hayward, California, is benefiting from another seismic economic boom—the rise of tech companies. And they need buses to shuttle employees to work.
“The number of buses has grown by 1,500 in the past five years,” said Kevin Creighton, Fleet Manager for Avalon Transportation, formerly West Valley Trailways, in San Jose, and the treasurer of the California Bus Association (CBA). “This is the gold rush era for buses.”
Creighton was among the customers who came out for the Nov. 19 unveiling of the $14 million service center. Located at 28741 Hall Road in an industrial park, the new facility features a 67,000-square-foot footprint with 10 service bays, indoor parking and a 10,000-square-foot parts warehouse. The soaring 32-foot ceilings provide plenty of headroom for lifting buses and for indoor parking, so technicians don’t have to go outside to troubleshoot a problem.
“It’s an amazing footprint. It’s the biggest facility I have seen,” said Creighton. “We buy Prevost because of the support we get.”
An important market
Creighton said he is looking forward to hosting a CBA mechanics training session at the facility that is expected to draw 130 technicians in February.
Prevost isn’t the only OEM to grasp the importance of the Northern California market. MCI has a facility about two miles away, and ABC Companies has one in nearby Newark, where Prevost opened a smaller location in 2017.
The Hayward facility’s opening drew top leadership of parent company Volvo Group from Sweden: Hakan Agnevall, president of Volvo Buses, and Jan Gurander, Volvo Group deputy chief executive officer and chairman of Volvo Buses.
“This is certainly the biggest service facility we inaugurated in North America for buses, and I would say in the world,” said Agnevall.
Gurander told the crowd that the building would be appreciated not only by customers but by employees who will work in a bright, airy space. “This is one of the most beautiful service facilities I’ve seen.”
Raising its profile
With the investment, Prevost is dramatically raising its profile in an increasingly important state for mass transportation. The Montreal-based manufacturer has long had a Southern California service facility in Mira Loma.
Hayward is about halfway between San Francisco and San Jose’s Silicon Valley region, home to the world’s largest high-tech corporations—Apple, eBay, Intel, Facebook, HP and Alphabet (formerly Google).
Prevost’s clients in the region are a mix of tech companies and coach operators who serve that market and others.
Agnevall says lessons learned in the San Francisco Bay Area market have the potential to be adapted to global markets.
“The tech companies are providing this as a service because commuting with cars is a hassle. What you see developing here in Silicon Valley is happening in many parts of the world,” he said.
The region’s shortage of affordable housing forces many workers to commute long distances, resulting in congested roadways. Privately operated buses offer flexibility unavailable with public mass transit and an efficient way to shuttle employees to their jobs.
“We’ve seen the really rapid growth of bus needs in the area because of the demand for employee shuttles,” said François Tremblay, Prevost vice president and general manager.
Multi-step expansion approach
Prevost took a multi-step approach to respond to customer requests for an increased service presence in the region. It began by providing a technician with a van who could make service calls. By 2017, the company opened its Newark location where limited space and low ceilings made it difficult to work on a double coach.
“It was small but something quick we could do. So this is kind of a decision process that gave us a way to grow this and blossom this business, but at the same time start to build that foundation,” said Ralph Acs, president of Nova Bus and Prevost.
The Hayward location has the capacity to service nearly four times as many vehicles as Newark. The leased facility was built to be adaptable to meet changing market needs.
The investment marks expansion at Prevost, with its workforce expected to grow to about 86 employees at its two California sites by the end of 2020. Most new hires will be technicians and parts team members.
The investment underscores the company’s commitment to customer care. With about 20 locations, Prevost operates the largest bus service network in North America.
“When we talk about customer care, it’s about being there for the customer. So we have to make sure that we have facilities located in areas where our customers are buying our vehicles, so we can take care of them,” Acs said. “This is a blossoming area, so for us to be here is huge.”