Van Hool doubles down
The company and its North American partner, ABC Companies, reinforce their commitment to American operators
One of the largest manufacturers of buses, touring coaches and industrial vehicles worldwide, Van Hool produces approximately 1,400 buses and coaches, and as many as 4,000 commercial vehicles annually of which 80 percent are exported worldwide. With over 8,500 coaches delivered in North America through its exclusive distributor ABC Companies, Faribault, MN, Van Hool currently holds the number one position in the U.S. private coach market.
So, how did a European global leader become the dominant force in tour and charter coach products in North America? CEO Filip Van Hool, a third generation Van Hool executive, says commitment and trust are essential to building long-term relationships between the firm, ABC Companies and its North American stakeholders. Nurtured by in-depth knowledge of customer desires and market demands over almost three decades, Van Hool has diligently cultivated a long-standing and mutually beneficial relationship with ABC and its American customer base.
A history of shared values and consistent leadership
ABC Companies, founded in 1950 by Clancy Cornell, and Van Hool, founded in 1947 by Bernard Van Hool, are both privately-held, family-owned businesses. When the two firms created their partnership in 1987, they agreed that hard work and a customer-first mindset would be the keys to a mutually successful business venture.
The companies shared similar business and family values, and recognized the opportunity to bring a unique product to the American marketplace that stood out from competitors.
As the two families worked to build their relationship, the American appetite for high quality, durable Van Hool coaches grew. “Americanizing” the Van Hool product to meet stateside-operator demands and compliance proved to be the winning strategy that changed the face of American coach operations.
Consistency of leadership has also been an important part of the Van Hool/ABC partnership. Unlike other corporate owned competitors, both families have shared a continuing legacy of executive leadership with generations of Van Hools, Cornells and, in many cases, key ABC Companies executives providing decades of successive leadership within both firms.
“Having our family name displayed on every Van Hool coach on the road today is a special point of pride and ownership for generations of this family,” Filip Van Hool says. “The Van Hool emblem directly reflects the care, precision and collective energy that goes into the design, engineering and manufacturing of every Van Hool coach.”
Customer insights driving the future
Van Hool prides itself on a uniquely hands-on management style. Its dynamic business structure relies on customer insights to influence ongoing process improvements in R&D and product development, as well as after-sales support strategies. The company leverages those insights combined with business intelligence to shape new product introductions and service offerings.
Van Hool cites standardization and interchangeability as core principles in new product development – an ideology directly aimed at helping operators reduce lifetime costs, preserve value, and enhance serviceability.
In fact, with each new product introduction Van Hool engineers strive to increase the number of shared parts and systems across equipment models. For example, last year’s release of the new Van Hool CX and TX coaches offered major interchangeability of typical maintenance and service replacement parts. After-sales support is another key area where the partners have made major strides in the customer service experience. Last year, in consultation with a number of large North American operators, a system was developed and deployed which makes the most frequently requested spare parts available for delivery to most major North American markets typically within 24 hours of receipt of order.
The Van Hool CX Coach – the choice of North American operators
Over the past year, the globally acclaimed manufacturer has made a substantial capital investment in a new production facility, centered on a dedicated production line for the exclusive North American CX motorcoach.
“We want to be recognized as the supply-chain leader in North America,” Van Hool says. “The CX coach is fabricated and assembled on its own dedicated production line — enabling us to continue to turn out a high-quality product — one that continues to offer operators a high-performance, durable and modernized fleet solution at a sustainable price point.”
The new 43-acre plant features the latest production technologies to ensure consistent quality and safety performance, and employs over 450 knowledgeable and well-trained employees. Current production capacity is approximately 500 units per year, including full coach fabrication and assembly.
“This new site provides us with an important competitive advantage,” says Dane Cornell, CEO & Chairman, ABC Companies. “It will enhance our service to customers and promises to support continued growth.”
Van Hool says the facility was built with the future in mind and the infrastructure to expand.
“It’s a prime example of a great design and is a premier production facility,” he says. “It is dedicated exclusively to supporting our growing American business base.”
Coming to America – the new CX35
Plans are underway for the production of a smaller-scale CX equipment release. The new CX 35-foot model is currently in the product development and engineering pipeline with planned features that offer North American operators all of the performance, high quality, durability and amenities of a 45-foot coach for smaller groups.
The CX35 will integrate a multitude of high-end amenities and functionality comparable to full-size Van Hool models, with the added benefits of lower fuel consumption, and almost full parts interchangeability with the larger CX 45-foot coaches. Production units are slated to be in the U.S. by late 2015 with a full product rollout anticipated in early 2016.
“We’re positioned to take our company to the next level with our North American partner, ABC Companies,” Van Hool says. “Integrating new technologies and focusing on continuous improvement and product diversification will be part of our growth and development strategy for the North America market.”
Additionally, ABC Companies supports customers with a comprehensive after-sale network for service and repairs, collision services, extensive OEM and quality aftermarket parts needs from nine strategic locations throughout the U.S. and Canada.
“Van Hool isn’t just committed to growing in size and market reach,” Van Hool says. “It is also, more importantly, cementing our commitment to our longtime and valued North American customer base.”
Van Hool: Milestones At-A-Glance
> The U.S. Private Coach Market Leader – 2014
> Approximately 8,500 coaches delivered in North America
> 25+ year exclusive distributor partnership with ABC Companies
> 65 years experience in bus design, manufacturing and service
> 100+ acres of manufacturing facilities throughout Europe
> 1,400 buses produced annually
> 4,000 industrial vehicles produced annually
> 80 percent exports worldwide