New focus is Krystal clear
Krystal Enterprises brings two new vehicles to market and establishes comprehensive dealer network
By David Hubbard
Krystal Enterprises, a bus and limousine manufacturer based in Brea, CA, is taking a refreshed approach to changing markets following the toughest recession the industry has seen. Fully energized, and with a keener focus on what it will take to build a stronger company, Krystal’s plan is to bring new and innovative buses to market and better handle sales nationwide.
The company employs more than 500 workers, and produces over 800 vehicles a year within its diverse product range. Krystal operates out of two state-of-the-art facilities, including its ultra-modern headquarters in Brea.
Modeled after the larger automotive manufacturers, the Krystal production facility boasts features such as down-draft body work stations, climate controlled paint booths, CNC sheet metal machinery and recycling equipment for plastics, metals and cardboard.
The prior sales structure consisted of corporate headquarters and five dealers scattered around the country. Today, Krystal Enterprises retains its dealership in California, and has strategically positioned a total of 20 independent dealers throughout the country to better serve existing operators and reach potential new customers.
Krystal founder and CEO Ed Grech established the company in Anaheim, CA in 1983 in his own body shop, where he and his team cut and built the first Krystal stretch limousine from a fire-damaged 1981 Cadillac. Over the next 30 years, Grech grew his company into the largest global maker of limousines, mini-buses, and myriad chauffeured vehicles. He cultivated a reputation for quality construction, innovative amenities, high safety standards and a company image synonymous with upscale luxury — all apparent in the modern showroom, and manufacturing complex that opened in 1997 along East Imperial Highway in Brea.
This past January Krystal began to reevaluate their position in the bus industry by expanding its parts and service departments and moving to a nationwide dealer network for sales and support. Vice President Robb Bennett, a veteran in the automotive industry, is concentrating on retaining Krystal’s foothold in both bus and livery markets.
John MacKinney, bus sales manager and 12-year veteran of Krystal’s bus division, has the task of expanding Krystal’s bus market share.
“In the past, we were always a factory-direct operation,” says Grech. “But we feel Krystal’s best approach to expanding nationwide sales is to establish a comprehensive dealer network.”
He anticipates steady progress in the livery market over the next several years, but has been encouraging limousine operators to diversify into bus and coach operations since the late 1990s.
“There are plenty of limousine companies today running small buses and coaches,” says MacKinney. “With the state of the economy, we believe this is a fresh opportunity for the bus and motorcoach industry to recognize our bus products.”
The Krystal EVolution
The Krystal EVolution Electric Bus debuted in July during the GSA FedFleet 2011 Exposition in Orlando, FL. Krystal built this 38-foot, 102-inch wide vehicle on the International 4300 chassis to accommodate a 31,000# GVW. The fully electric conversion will feature two electric motors, automatic transmission, lithium ion batteries and an all-electric air conditioning system. The EVolution seats up to 42 passengers depending on the configuration, and features the customary Krystal trademark fit-and-finish, coach-style windows and air suspension.
The advanced battery technology available on the EVolution allows a one-hour fast charge good for 150 miles. The driver can essentially plug in and recharge the vehicle during any break. Krystal says during testing the EVolution has reached top end speeds of 72 mph.
“Typically all-electric vehicle technology requires an eight- to 10-hour recharge,” says MacKinney. “So with this quick-charge capability, we expect the EVolution bus will fit nicely into a wide variety of applications.”
MacKinney describes the sealed 5-in x 15-in x 10-in batteries as fitting together like Legos in heavily undercoated battery boxes set steel cages that fit between the chassis frame rails. He says by their nature these batteries can be recycled and replaced at a fraction of the cost.
Krystal says it will distribute the EVolution through Capitol Coachworks, one of its leading dealerships based in the Washington, D.C. area.
The Krystal F650
While other OEMs build on the F650 chassis, Krystal says it manufacturing its model is in response to recent price increases brought on by bigger chassis that accommodate the change in engines and emissions hardware.
“We designed this bus to be price conscious,” says MacKinney. “We don’t believe it will compete directly with our other large buses. Rather, we see it broadening our clientele.”
For now, the F650 is available only as a 35-foot vehicle. MacKinney says Krystal may eventually build it out to fit on a F750 chassis, but is taking a wait and see approach for now.
The new vehicle features a Cummins 6-liter diesel with an Allison 2000 Series transmission. However, later this year, it will be available with a gaseous 6.8L V10. With hardened valves and valve stems, it will be able to accept Ford authorized conversions to both CNG and LPG fuel.
Krystal says it will be providing support for the EVolution battery maintenance, while the international dealer network can service the rest of the drive train, as well as normal mechanical and electrical components associated with the general chassis. Normal warranty processes apply.