The Chamblee family sees attractive school and tour niche for the new MCI J3500 coach market
Motor Coach Industries (MCI), a U.S. subsidiary of NFI Group Inc., has delivered a new 35-foot MCI J3500 to Gulf Coast Tours.
The way Nick Chamblee sees it, not every tour, corporate or group client needs a full-size luxury coach to deliver a great experience. Sometimes a smaller vehicle with big luxury, reliability and safety built in works just as well — especially when the name on the front is MCI.
“In motorcoaches, we’re an all-MCI J4500 fleet and the chance to offer the J4500 experience in a smaller coach really resonated for us,” Chamblee said.
Chamblee took over the 30-year-old Gulf Coast Tours in 2016 from his father Ed Chamblee.
“We’re seeing a need for group-size flexibility from schools and groups, and we think it could open new doors to business with the corporate and private charter market. Not every group needs a 56-seat coach when a really great 40- or 44-seat coach with all the amenities will do,” he said.
The new MCI J3500 is the North American motorcoach leader’s latest debut to complement its best-selling J4500, recently redesigned with increased space and passenger comfort. The J3500 member of MCI’s new “J-Series” family of coaches features all the styling and comfort hallmarks of the J4500, with seating for up to 44 passengers, a powerful Cummins engine, shared J-coach components, and a turning radius of under 33 feet that makes it a natural for high-traffic situations that call for top maneuverability.
Chamblee, a former professional musician who knows a thing or two about traveling by bus, understands there’s always an opportunity to win over a customer who’s never considered coach travel as a viable, long-term option. Giving such open-minded customers an option like the J3500 as a substitute for mini-buses or limousines opens new vistas, he said.
“The reliability of the MCI brand — and the ability to maintain it with interchangeable parts that we stock for our fleet of 17 J4500 coaches — tells our customer that smaller doesn’t mean they have to settle for anything less than a big-coach experience,” Chamblee said.
Gulf Coast Tours’ first J3500 comes equipped with a top-of-the-line four-monitor entertainment system with four monitors, the 2017 EPA Cummins L9 with engine brake, three-point seatbelts and the optional RGB interior lighting feature offering six pre-programmed colors (red, blue, green, cyan, magenta, yellow) plus white for the best customer branding experience.
“I think it’s important to give the customer a passenger experience that’s all their own,” Chamblee said.
Gulf Coast Tours chose the 40-seat configuration to give high school, college and university athletes the best legroom in this new, smaller coach configuration. “
Two hours after delivery, this coach has never stopped moving,” Chamblee said.
A family devoted to the bus business
Chamblee and his wife Theresa run the company together — Chamblee as CEO and Theresa as operations manager. However, he pointed out that the entire team “wears many hats as a small business, and we love that no two weeks are ever the same.” Gulf Coast Tours’ website is www.gctbus.com.