Prevost predicts strong 2018 with new equipment, services

SAINTE-CLAIRE, Quebec — Prevost is rolling into 2018 on a high note, with well-received recent product improvements and plans for new equipment and service features.

“Right now we’re looking at a very bright outlook for 2018,” said Jack Forbes, vice president of North American sales for Prevost.

“We’re encouraged with what we’re hearing from all aspects of the business.”

Coming attractions in 2018 include introducing the electric fan drive cooling system in the H3-45 early in the year after a successful rollout in the X3-45 in mid-2017; a new entertainment system on both lines; and a planned new service center in Orlando, to name a few.

Improvements ahead for the Volvo 9700 motorcoach, which Prevost distributes as a member of the Volvo family, include floor rails for sliding passenger seats, starting with third quarter 2018 deliveries, and building on sales of the 9700’s introduction into Canada in August 2017.

Prevost also is coming off successfully delivering the first 60 buses in 2017 of its single largest contract ever: up to 360 of its X3-45s for Greyhound Lines Inc. Prevost is anticipating delivering 300 more over the next three years, Forbes said.

The electric fan drive cooling system, which Prevost started delivering in the X3-45 in June, has performed well, Forbes said, citing about a 4 percent improvement in fuel mileage.

“We’re getting outstanding results and feedback from customers on improved fuel mileage,” he said.

The system removes the large axial fan that sits next to the radiator in the engine compartment and replaces it with smaller fans, freeing up room in the engine compartment for easier maintenance. The system reduces the load on the engine by removing belts, which leaves more usable power for the engine. The system pulls about 75 horsepower less off the engine.

The electric fan drive cooling system will become standard on H3-45 buses starting with deliveries in late first quarter 2018, Forbes said.

Prevost – which made its cleaner GHG17 D13 Volvo engine that meets requirements for reduced greenhouse gas emissions standard equipment in 2016 (also standard in Volvo coaches) – will be releasing the OBD18 D13 Volvo engine as standard equipment on all of its coaches starting late in first quarter of 2018.

“We have done extensive testing in the Volvo power train test chamber as well as with our customers in the field with excellent results,” Forbes said. “The pairing of the OBD18 Volvo engine and our new electric fan drive package will bring increased fuel economy and ease of engine maintenance to a new level.

“Our goal is to continue to provide the best and most reliable engine in the bus industry, the Volvo D13.”

The Allison automatic transmission, introduced in the Volvo 9700 in 2015, is now standard in all Prevost coaches and motorhomes and Volvo 9700s and also has been well received, he said.

Inside its buses, Prevost is introducing a new full entertainment system with a “BYOD” (bring your own device) feature, Forbes said.

“It’s kind of game-changing, as far as we’re concerned,” he said.

Prevost was scheduled to introduce the system at UMA Expo in San Antonio in early January.

“We are confident it will quickly become the ultimate onboard entertainment system in the industry,” Forbes said.

On the service front, in October Prevost opened its new San Francisco Bay Area service center in Newark, its 15th North American service center. However, the center in the heart of Silicon Valley is temporary and will be replaced by a larger, permanent location somewhere in the Bay Area by first quarter 2019, Forbes said.

The location hasn’t been finalized, he said, noting the challenge of finding roughly 40 acres in the booming region.

“The other key for us is we are going to be opening a large service center in Orlando,” targeted for July 2018, he said of center No. 16. “That’s on the agenda.”

Expanding service centers is part of the company’s growth strategy, he said. The service centers also include sales, parts supply and service vans that can be dispatched to remote areas where customers may need maintenance. The company now has 55 service vans throughout North America.

“Where we don’t have a service center, we more than likely have a service van that’s reaching into the regions,” Forbes said.

Prevost also opened three service centers in third quarter 2017 in the Chicago area, Montreal and Calgary.

The company has had success recently in touting its X3-45, more of a line haul/commuter coach, for private-sector operators who haven’t had the model in their fleets before. Forbes said Prevost is looking to grow those sales.

Projected sales of the X3-45 and H3-45 and the motorhome/entertainment/conversion segment vehicles are trending about 10 percent better for 2018 than 2017, he said.

“Operators we’re talking to are looking at continued strong opportunities in 2018,” he said.

In the motorhome/entertainer/conversion market, the new slide-out design in 2017 featuring a flush floor was well received, Forbes said of improved sales in that segment. Aside from the product features, that market continues to rebound from the Great Recession.

“It’s been slowly growing back every year since 2012,” Forbes said.

Prevost anticipates the transit commuter market remaining relatively flat in 2018 with lingering questions about transit funding emerging from Washington, D.C.

For the Volvo 9700, sales rose about 20 percent in 2017 and Forbes expects a similar boost in 2018.

He said product improvements and the quality of the vehicle are driving those sales increases.

“We had some early startup problems in 2009 and ’10 … we’ve slowly been overcoming that and now it’s really a good, solid-quality bus with the same support as we give for the Prevost,” Forbes said.

Canadian sales of the 9700 also are part of Prevost’s long-term growth plan for that model, he said.

For its X3-45 commuter coaches, Prevost intends in 2018 to bid on a contract with the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority for 200-plus coaches, Forbes said, anticipating the agency will begin to take delivery of the coaches in 2019.

Prevost delivered 390 X3-45 coaches over the past four years to the transit authority, which has been very pleased with the coaches’ performance, he said.

Prevost makes the X3-45 in the Plattsburgh, N.Y., plant it shares with its sister company, Nova Bus. That plant had seen Prevost production levels ebb and flow in recent years, but is steady now, Forbes said.

“The Greyhound business has helped significantly, as well as some of the other contracts that we’re building,” he said, adding that the assembly line still has room for growth.

Of the 60 X3-45s built for Greyhound in 2017, 33 were built in Plattsburgh and 27 at the company’s headquarters in Sainte Claire, Quebec.

“Greyhound has taken delivery of buses from both plants, so they see the same high quality from both locations,” Forbes said.

Prevost also is holding a Greyhound Buy America Federal Transit Administration contract awarded a year ago for 40 coaches; Prevost has already delivered eight and has 32 more to build. The units, to support transportation in rural areas in the U.S., are in addition to Greyhound’s order for up to 360 buses.

Nova Bus, meanwhile, also had an outstanding sales year in 2017 and has a solid order board for 2018, Forbes said, with projections for continued sales growth in 2018 and beyond.

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