ElDorado National Kansas fine tunes its new luxury flagship
By David Hubbard
ElDorado National Kansas, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Thor Industries, now based in Elkhart, IN, had in mind for quite some time to round out its product offering. The goal was to develop or secure a high-end retail unit that would complement the company’s core commercial and transit bus products: the Aerolite, Aerotech, Aero Elite and Advantage lines.
The company learned late last year that the bus division assets of limousine manufacturer Krystal Enterprises were available for purchase.
Founded and headquartered in Orange County, CA, Krystal Enterprises had developed its stylish luxury flagship, the Krystal Koach. In 2010 the company moved all its production to Mexicali, Baja, Mexico, where it was turning out 10 to 20 Krystal Koach buses per month. This continued until it closed the production line in June 2012.
Once the sale closed, Thor Industries moved quickly to acquire the Krystal Koach brand and assets for $3.9 million in cash, and ElDorado National immediately relocated the production plant from Mexicali to its headquarters in Salina, KS.
“Once the determination was made to buy the Krystal assets, we saw it as the perfect opportunity for us to establish this model as the high-end luxury product line for this company,” says ElDorado Kansas President Jeff Montgomery. “With our acquisition, we take pride in announcing that Krystal is once again Made in America.”
The transaction and relocation required far more than moving physical property. According to Montgomery, it meant a total inundation for ElDorado National to become oriented with its new brand.
The company invited John MacKinney, former Krystal sales manager, to join in the move. Thoroughly versed on the vehicle, he is now on board with ElDorado National in the same capacity. ElDorado also contracted with Greg Beck, the former head of engineering, to come out to Salina and help with the transition to a new production line. Dan Heintzman, Krystal’s bus purchasing agent of over 15 years, also made the cross-country move to add material stability to the new line.
“We wanted to first ensure we would be building the same bus, not allowing it to morph into something completely different than we purchased,” says Montgomery. “To do that we had to be sure we purchased the same materials, components and parts that Krystal Enterprises was using before. Only then we could move forward with any determinations as to the changes ElDorado might want to consider.”
Former product manager Rob Jasper had worked in the Krystal bus division for 10 years, overseeing the inception and full life of the Krystal Koach. He came out to Salina for a week to help the new owners to build the bus the way Krystal first built it at the Orange County, CA, facility.
“Once we were able to achieve that with the help of their consultations, we could move ahead with our own subtle changes,” says Montgomery. “We want to clearly demonstrate to operators that ElDorado is building to the same high quality standards that operators had come to expect from the Krystal brand.”
ElDorado says that rather than build the Krystal on its existing production line, it has elected to dedicate an independent line that shares only three stations with the Aerotech and Advantage brands.
“We needed to create a slower moving Krystal line in order to keep the Aerotech and Advantage lines flowing smoothly,” says MacKinney. “This arrangement accommodates the additional labor and building time necessary to maintain the fit and finish and the quality and design synonymous with the Krystal Koach brand.”
ElDorado National has provided its own enhancements. Namely, the company incorporated its own transit-proven heavy-duty electrical system that provides more consistency than before. ElDorado National says it also provides unique opportunities to service the product through Thor’s vendor resources, continuous parts availability, and manufacturing efficiencies.
“What Thor Industries and ElDorado National bring to the table in this transaction is our capability to partner with so many vendors and suppliers in the bus market and certify installations,” says Montgomery. “Now the aftermarket support for the Krystal Koach is stronger because our vendors and dealer network not only work with supplying the parts but are working with us on the service of those parts after the sale.”
With the acquisition, ElDorado National is able to make Krystal parts more available to operators than had been over the last few years.
“We also are carrying many parts for older Krystal buses,” says MacKinney. “Operators who have had difficulties maintaining their Krystal buses should find that, because of parts availability at the factory and with their local dealer support, the overall serviceability of Krystal buses will improve.”
Local support is yet another major improvement in the brand. Before Krystal buses were mainly purchased direct from the factory or through a few regional representatives on the East Coast.
“Factory direct sales offer a few shortsighted advantages,” MacKinney says, “but by distributing nationally solely through our dealer network, Krystal operators will experience the benefits of dealing with a locally operated dealer that can offer 100 percent sales, finance, service and warranty, and parts supply.”
In fact, according to Montgomery, ElDorado National has what it feels is one of the stronger dealer networks in the industry.
“To start off, we are convinced Krystal owners will receive better service because they are not dealing with everything coming out of one location,” he says. “They will have much more local support”
Additionally, Montgomery credits the Krystal Koach for bringing a great number of limo companies into the bus business beginning in the 1990s, and again during the past recession when many limousine operators were beginning to realize the shortcomings of a strictly stretch limousine service. He says because of shifts in perceptions for group transportation, small to midsize buses and even motorcoaches in some cases have played a larger role in corporate and special occasion transportation usually afforded to limousines.
“Because of this shift in the industry, we are starting to see more executive style minibuses being produced,” says Montgomery. “The new look is more businesslike and luxurious. The limousine industry has driven this evolution to a higher-end product. Not everyone is ordering Tower blue fabrics for their buses. Instead it’s now black exterior buses with seamless windows and simulated hardwood flooring, leather and leatherette seating in the interior.”
“We have also seen a shift in group travel needs with many tours operators booking only 25 to35 seats,” MacKinney added. “Coach operators have told us that is too few passengers to operate a large motorcoach, so they have expanded into the luxury shuttle market to accommodate this market.”
ElDorado National Kansas currently has new Krystal shuttle buses rolling down the assembly line that will begin arriving to dealers in the very near future. However, the company says the Krystal LS limousine style buses will take a bit longer to develop. It hopes to debut a limousine interior at the Atlantic City limousine show in October. BR