Luxury is viable
A Yankee Line and AT&T Charters rely on the Setra S 417 to set the stage
By David Hubbard
As the economic downturn continues, motorcoach companies of every size are experiencing its impact, doing what they can to weather the conditions. The more pro-active operators are exploring new markets and ways to retain existing customers. Added value is one such strategy.
Three years ago when the economy was beginning to show some promise, Daimler Buses North America, Greensboro, NC, could not have stated luxury any bolder than at the 2006 UMA Expo with its one word campaign. The dominant theme in the marketing and promotion of the Setra S 417, the word luxury leaps off the side of the floor model.
In his address to the industry three years ago, chief commercial officer Patrick Scully averred that upscale consumerism was not at all lost on the bus and coach industry. Scully says the Setra S 417 has never pretended to have a lock on the luxury concept, noting that all the other motorcoach OEMs clearly claim their stakes in the concept of high-end coach travel.
Nonetheless, he says his company continues to differentiate the Setra brand through its sole focus on a premium coach experience and the luxury and comfort it entails.
Daimler Buses operates on the assumption Setra owners have the clientele to support the purposely marketed luxury. Scully says operators looking to distinguish themselves in the luxury market with an appropriate vehicle make up about 20 to 25 percent of the sales of motorcoaches in the U.S. He further suggests operators in tune with the luxury concept could easily push it to an even larger share of the market.
“Conducting business focused on luxury travel by motorcoach is definitely a viable and growing niche,” he says. “In spite of the poor economy, this is becoming clearer, and savvy operators are buying in on the concept, distinguishing themselves with this focus.”
Daimler Buses North America sees tours and charters on lushly appointed high-end luxury motorcoaches as opportunities for which an operator can charge an appropriately higher rate. A number of companies such as A Yankee Line, Boston, MA, and AT&T Charter Service, Louisburg, NC, say the Setra S 417 provides the features and benefits they need to do this.
With nearly 20 years of experience in tours and charter services. AT&T Charter Service Inc., a 20-year company recently purchased its first two Setra S 417 motorcoaches not only to attract higher-end, corporate clients in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, but also to add value for the existing clientele.
“To grow our business in the corporate travel market, we think our new Setra S 417 luxury coaches do the most for our stronger appeal to high-end markets,” says Denny House, owner of AT&T Charter Service. “These coaches along with the capability to provide laptop connections, wireless Internet and satellite television are what we need to attract corporate clients and athletic teams that insist on high-end luxury.”
These coaches are equipped with individual headset systems, dropdown tray tables, DVD entertainment, mini-galley and GPS-enabled map viewing on passenger video screens.
Don Dunham, co-owner of A Yankee Line, says beyond high-end amenities that are nearly standard these days, his company has gone the extra mile, offering coaches with fewer of the all-leather upholstered seats for additional legroom.
“Current economic conditions make it all the more important for us to differentiate ourselves from our competitors,” says Dunham. “We are finding the Setra S 417 allows us to offer a very comfortable, state-of-the-art ride that is truly memorable. Our customers recognize and appreciate its curb appeal, as well as the posh interior and latest entertainment electronics.”
Daimler Buses North America says there is more to the Setra S 417s than luxury niceties. Though intended as a high-end motorcoach, the company says it is engineered with intelligent and cost-effective functionality. Easy-to-service components, long-life parts of the highest quality and proven reliability all contribute to a significant reduction in operating and maintenance costs.
“While the motorcoach market is down overall, we still see a very strong demand for luxury motorcoach and top level customer service,” says Tom Chezem, vice president of motorcoach sales, Daimler Buses North America. “Bus and motorcoach manufacturers across the board are building in more feature amenities for fleet owners to meet the demand and stay abreast with an evolving market.”
He says operators are willing to pay for the amenities that create added value because this niche is not going away. With attitudes changing about the modern motorcoach experience, he says operators see plenty of opportunity for growth.
“More than ever, especially in the luxury market, the key is to provide a product that allows an operator to differentiate,” says Scully, “Daimler Buses North America believes it has refined and positioned the Setra S 417 to do just that.”