by Hal Mattern
Motorcoach parts have become a big business, with major coach manufacturers rushing to open regional parts centers around the United States and Canada so they can be as close as possible to their customers.
When motorcoaches break down, owners can’t afford to wait too long for replacement parts so they are likely to buy them from whichever company is closest or can deliver them the fastest.
“A lot of our customers have 10 or fewer coaches in their fleets, and they expect to use all of them all the time,” said Brian Dewsnup, president of NFI Parts, the parts operation for New Flyer and Motor Coach Industries (MCI). “It is critical that they get parts as quickly as possible so they can get the coach back on the road.”
While all four major motorcoach companies–MCI, Prevost, ABC Companies and Temsa North America–focus on selling parts to customers who operate their vehicles, they also stock parts for their competitors’ models.
Prevost, which operates 16 parts and service centers in the U.S. and Canada, with three more set to open this year, offers parts for all major motorcoach brands and has increased its parts inventory by 15 percent.
“A customer is more likely to buy from you today if the part is in stock,” said Kevin Dawson, parts business vice president at Prevost. “So we stock the parts people want. If you stock it, they will buy.”
Parts sales don’t bring in anywhere near as much revenue as motorcoach sales, but they still are a healthy part of the overall business. Dewsnup said parts sales accounted for 16 to 18 percent of New Flyer and MCI revenues last year.
He said service work is a much smaller component of the business because many motorcoach operators and most public transit agencies operate their own service departments.
Online parts sales are becoming increasingly popular for all of the motorcoach manufacturers because they allow buyers to quickly check availability. Online sales account for as much as 35 percent of parts sales.
All manufacturers attempt to stand out with customers. Prevost, for example, touts the fact that it has the most parts centers and also operates more than 55 mobile vans and trucks around the country to deliver parts and service.
Because the company’s Prevost and Volvo motorcoaches are equipped with Volvo engines, it also sells engines and parts and has agreements with 80 Volvo powertrain dealers across North America.
“We’re a one-stop shop,” Dawson said. “There is no need to go elsewhere.”
NFI Parts operates 15 parts warehouses, seven of which include service centers. Dewsnup said NFI sells the most parts because the company manufactures about half of all motorcoaches operating in North America. It also sells parts for Daimler-owned Setra luxury motorcoaches, which MCI distributed from 2012 through 2017, and for their competitors’ coach models.
He added that NFI ensures quality through internal testing of is parts, especially safety-related parts, “before we put them on a bus.”
ABC, which operates nine parts centers, said it offers competitive pricing and a one-stop shop for most major brands of both original equipment and aftermarket parts.
“We also have experts who can assist with placing orders and answering questions with extended hours until 8 p.m. Eastern,” said John Gillis, vice president of ABC’s parts division. “These extended hours also allow us to ship from multiple facilities if necessary to expedite delivery.”
Gillis said offering aftermarket parts gives customers additional options and price points. He said both original equipment and aftermarket parts sales are growing, based on ABC’s increased inventory levels and expanding supplier bases.
Temsa, a Turkish motorcoach manufacturer, has the fewest parts centers with four. That’s because the company took over its sales, service and parts operations in North America only a year ago after it cut ties with CH Bus, which had distributed Temsa coaches and handled parts sales and service in the U.S. for eight years. The companies are still entangled in a legal dispute.
Neil Wells, national parts manager for Temsa North America, said the company is planning to open parts and service centers in the Southwest and Midwest, but for now is working to get its existing operations up and running. Wells said CH Bus continued selling Temsa parts until June of this year, meaning Temsa was competing with CH Bus to sell its own parts.
“Now we are trying to compete with Prevost, MCI and ABC, which have been operating longer and have more motorcoaches on the road,” Wells said.
He said the company has been focusing mainly on Temsa parts, but also has started stocking parts for MCI, Prevost and Van Hool coaches, mainly “wear items, maintenance items, things we know we can move.”
Wells said Temsa is different from a start-up operation because it already has customers so doesn’t have to struggle to find a customer base. “I guess we are a start-up that is trying to rebuild a reputation,” he said. “We are getting back on track.”
Big bus manufacturers aren’t the only companies that sell motorcoach parts. Aftermarket parts sellers such as Mohawk Manufacturing & Supply and IBP Industries also compete to a certain extent with the manufacturers.
But while some motorcoach operators prefer to use aftermarket parts to keep costs down, the bus manufacturers say most operators are willing to spend more for original equipment parts.
The bottom line for all parts sellers is customer satisfaction.
“Making it easy to get the parts you need, when you need them, is what keeps our customers coming back,” said Gillis of ABC.
Dawson of Prevost said the company’s goal is to provide the best customer experience and value. “They use their vehicles as tools. They keep their businesses going. So our absolute focus is on getting coaches up and running.”