Prevost Celebrates 100 Years

Prevost’s origins start in 1924, when Eugene Prevost, a cabinet maker specializing in the production of church pews and school furniture, received a commission to build his first wooden coach body and mount it on a new REO truck chassis. Thirteen years later, the company built its first bus manufacturing facility in 1937.

Within a decade, Prevost bus design evolved from all-wood construction when Eugene Prevost introduced the first all-metal body over an all-metal skeleton. From 1945 to 1947, he gradually phased out cabinet work to concentrate on manufacturing highway motorcoaches. In 1947, the company name changed to Les Ateliers Prevost — Prevost Workshops — and expanded to 40,000 square feet to house metal and woodworking shops, die-casting and plating facilities and a foundry. Notably, the company received 100 orders for highway buses from the Canadian government, 66 for the Department of National Defense.

By 1957 the company had fallen on hard times, when industrialist Paul Normand and a partner stepped in and acquired the company and renamed it Prevost Car Inc. The silver-sided Le Normand with a diesel engine and pneumatic suspension was the first model produced under the new ownership.

“When he became involved in Prevost, General Motor was the largest leader,” said André Normand, son of Paul Normand. “Their dominance was forcing smaller manufacturers out of business one after the other. So, you can imagine how difficult it was to start and operate a business in this environment. My father had a simple and powerful mission statement: design and build intercity motorcoaches offering optimal comfort and reliability. And he made sure that each employee would follow suit.”

Over the next nine years, Normand said, Prevost constantly improved the comfort and reliability of their coaches to a level unparalleled in the industry.

Expansion in the ‘60s and ‘70s

In 1961, Prevost introduced the 25-foot Travelair, a gas- or diesel-powered passenger coach, for airport shuttles and short intercity routes. A year later, the company introduced the 40-foot Panoramique intercity parlor coach, featuring broad side windows and Prevost’s improved air-ride.

“The motorcoaches coaches were redesigned with the focus on the driver and passenger safety, comfort, and pleasure,” Normand said. “We believed that the more people enjoyed the ride the more they would be inclined to using them, therefore increasing our presence in the market.”

Eventually, the company debuted the Prevost Champion – the first North American coach with an integral structure. It featured three axles, split level, and air conditioning. Somerset Bus Company of New Jersey was the first American operator to purchase a new Prevost coach.

At around the same time, Prevost opened its first sales and service facilities in Lyndhurst, New Jersey, and Los Angeles – the first step toward the industry-leading service network that Prevost customers enjoy today.

To close out the 1960s, Thomas B. Harbison and William G. Campbell—two American businessmen—formed a partnership with André Normand,  president of Prevost from 1968 through 1996, and became the company’s sole owners.

In 1970, the first Champion conversion shell rolled off the assembly line as bus tourism grew in Canada and the United States. Within the next six years, along with a 35,000 foot facility expansion, Prevost introduced its Prestige model as well as the Le Mirage, an eye-catching, futuristic passenger coach featuring roof-wrapping side windows, a rust-protected integrated frame, fluted all stainless-steel skirting, and less riveting than other coaches of the time. The Le Mirage was offered to converters without interior finishing for motorhomes and corporate coaches. Harbison and Campbell, both longtime motorhome owners, would contribute to the engineering of the first Le Mirage conversion shell introduced at the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) meeting in 1978.

Prevost in the ‘80s and ’90s: Breaking New Ground, and the H-Series Arrives

To kick off the new decade, Prevost built a 100,000 square-feet plant with conveyor system and in-house research and development (R&D) in Sainte-Claire, Canada. Within several years, the company introduced the 102-inch wide Marathon XL, Astral XL, and Mirage XL for passenger coaches and conversion coaches in 1984.

“All in all, we made wonderful vehicles that were as appealing on the outside as on the inside, making them the envy of the industry,” Normand said. “We constantly pushed the industry to a higher level of quality, design and safety.

In 1985, Prevost introduced the 60-foot articulated Prevost H5-60 bus for 72 passengers — the first vehicle in the H-Series, a staple of the industry to this day.

The early 1990s saw the Le Mirage XL extended to a 45-foot model, and the introduction of the long wheelbase 45-foot XL-45 for traveling entertainers.

Soon after, Prevost launched three more H-Series models: the H3-41 and H3-45 premium touring coaches and the H3-45 VIP bus shell for high-end conversion.

“My colleagues and I managed to put together and develop the best teams of employees in a vast array of expertise,” Normand said. “These included engineering and design, production and assembly, quality control and assurance quality, customer service, parts and repair, sales, and marketing. It would ultimately make us a force to be reckoned with in the industry.”

Acquisition by Volvo and
Henlys Group

In 1995, Volvo Group of Sweden and Henlys Group of United Kingdom acquired joint ownership of Prevost. The companies immediately expanded Prevost’s production, parts and service facilities. Within three years, Prevost became the first North American bus maker to be granted ISO 9001 certification for quality-controlled manufacturing and ISO 14001 certification for environmental protection. In this same period, Prevost introduced frameless windows that allowed panoramic viewing for tour and charter passengers, which quickly became the design benchmark in the industry.

“Prevost is notable for its product, its engineering, and the fact that we introduced parts and service centers throughout Canada and the US,” said Georges Bourelle, Prevost president from 1996 through 2003. 

 Prevost in the New Millenium

Early in the new millennium, the H-Series received a facelift redesign, the Le Mirage was redesigned and the result was the 45-foot XLII, and Prevost introduced an exclusive, interchangeable wheelchair lift to its product offerings.

“Before I joined the company, Prevost had an objective of producing 1,000 units in 2000,” Bourelle said. “And we did. That was certainly a very, very proud moment for all of us at Prevost, but particularly for me as the president of the company.”

After Volvo gained sole ownership of Prevost in 2004, the company set to work on several new developments including a space-saving, second-generation multiplex system. Then, Prevost made news by launching the X3-45 with the longest wheelbase in the industry and the largest overall under-floor surface area for storage.

“I saw this coach being the workhorse of the industry, perfect for a scheduled service line haul, with the Commuter still being the preferred coach on the entertainer business,” said Gaétan Bolduc, president and CEO of Prevost from 2004 through 2015.

By 2009, Prevost launched the Volvo 9700 in the North American market. Significant safety features on the Volvo 9700 included disc brakes with Electronic Braking System (EBS) and Electronic Stability Program (ESP). Prevost debuted another re-design for the H-Series that same year, showing clean, sleek lines in its appearance.

“Customers were asking for an affordable bus, which led us to bringing the Volvo 9700 to market,” Bolduc said. “And while doing that, we knew that the H3-45 was one of the best buses in the industry, so we continued investing in that product.”

“It was all about developing the market and being strong in all segments,” he continued. “So we listened to the customers, and then did a lot of R&D to support them.” 

Prevost announced that all vehicles after 2010 would be manufactured with the Volvo D13 engine.

“This was during a period Daimler decided not to keep supplying Detroit Diesel engines to the industry,” Bolduc said. “So, we implemented the Volvo engine, which turned out to be a great engine for the coach industry and the shell industry.”

In 2011 the company manufactured its 15,000th vehicle; introduced Aware Adaptive Cruise Braking; gained industry market share lead for first time; and introduced the X3-45 Commuter Coach, as well as its first mobile app, the Prevost Service Locator. By the following year, mobile app technology led to an entire suite of digital tools available for Prevost operators.

In 2013, Prevost became the Official Luxury Motorcoach of NASCAR. The company introduced PRIME (Power Recovery by Intelligent Management of Energy). Meanwhile, the Prevost Service Network grew to include 10 service centers, four mobile service trucks, and more than 150 Prevost-trained service providers. Today, Prevost boasts being the largest service network in the industry with more than 190 service providers and over 60 service trucks. 

Moving Toward the 100th Anniversary

In 2019, the updated X3-45 was introduced with a new look and improved aerodynamics. When COVID-19 struck the motorcoach industry in 2020, Prevost focused efforts on helping its customers get back to business. In addition to offering a host of new products and business solutions, the esteemed motorcoach manufacturer positioned itself as an industry partner for re-opening customers as well as operators looking to right-size their fleets.

“We took a serious financial hit, as you can imagine, during 2020 and 2021,” said Francois Tremblay, current CEO and president of Prevost. “But it was important for us to secure the equity of our customers in their fleet. Although we sat on our inventory, it turned out to be the right thing to do for the long run, because now we have many customers thanking us for having a more conservative approach and securing the value of their equipment.”

These post-COVID developments included the introduction of the Cloud One, its exclusive and proprietary seat line designed for the North American market. The Cloud One line was designed with ergonomics and passenger comfort in mind, and was is the result of several years of research and development, with Prevost consulting with customers, suppliers, and its own industrial design team to conduct ergonomic and stress tests before settling on the final offering. 

Prevost also debuted eMirrors, the first electronic side mirror system in the North American motorcoach industry. This stand-alone system replaces a coach’s traditional mirrors with cameras and monitors. The company also remained steadfast in its promotion of Driver Assist, which fully integrates radar, camera and brake technologies to work together, gathering and sharing information, functioning simultaneously to create driver assistance aimed at reducing incidents and lowering operational costs.

In addition to these product offerings, Prevost ratified its commitment to unparalleled service, starting with its Block of Hours program introduced in 2022. The program is available for operators with any sized fleet and for all major coach makes and models. The program lets operators secure a regularly scheduled timeslot in a Prevost service center. Designed to promote efficiency and uptime, the service is available for scheduled maintenance or unexpected stops.

Prevost Uptime was introduced as an expansion of Prevost’s maintenance intervals program. Maintenance or service is planned and priced in advance, with coaches protected for as little as $15 per day. Prevost’s Parts Assist acts as the company’s 100-percent Electronic Parts Catalog, and is another tool created to support customers. Finally, Prevost launched Services Assist in January 2022. The Services Assist tool was developed using data to ensure the customer’s vehicle has all the right preventive maintenance completed as needed, using the manufacturer recommendation.

“I’m very proud of how we maneuvered the company throughout the pandemic period, because that was not easy,” Tremblay said. “There was a lot of pressure, because every decision impacted people – employees, their families, and customers. Today we’re stronger than we were pre-pandemic, and I’m very proud of that.”

Last year, Prevost debuted the all-new H3-45 with notable improvements over previous models in comfort, serviceability, and fuel efficiency. With a sleeker design, the H3-45’s aerodynamic improvements when combined with other features gives an overall 12 percent increase in fuel economy. Prevost officials cited the H3-45’s strong product legacy of dependability, common parts, brand recognition, and curb appeal, saying that the new coach represented a refinement of what makes the H3-45 great, as opposed to a revolutionary change. Tremblay said that, since the introduction of the new H3-45, Prevost’s production has tripled.

A Century of Excellence

Entering its 100th year, Prevost is a cornerstone of the industry and unique due to its history and commitment to excellence. 

“It’s a combination of product and people,” Tremblay said. “It’s amazing to see the level of tenure we have within our company. We have so many people with 20, 25, or 30 years of tenure with the company, which adds so much depth and experience. But also, the people we have are so customer focused, whether it’s just thinking about our service network, service team, and all the support they provide to our operators.”

“Prevost is unique because of its passion for the customer, to the point where some of them are becoming friends, so you want to be the best partner that they have,” Bolduc added. “The company still has the commitment to its core brand and business values with which it began.”