Further leaps in technology and customization are the focus for 2010
Peter Pan Bus Lines, Springfield, MA, enjoys a history with Motor Coach Industries (MCI). The company was among the first to take delivery of the MCI ®J4500 with its order of 12 coaches during 2001. Other operators who ordered pre-production models include Eyre Bus Tour and Travel, Glenelg, MD.
MCI says these early customers responded to the way the J4500 combined the best of the sleek, aerodynamic look and spiral staircase of the E4500, with the time-tested componentry of the MCI D-Series.
By early 2004 the MCI J4500 had surpassed the MCI D-Series, the all-time top seller in the motorcoach industry, with annual sales and a star was born. Performing in large and small fleets throughout North America, the MCI J4500 continues to top the sales chart.
Mike Mazzeo of Lakefront Lines, a Coach America company with operations in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Kentucky, says several of the earliest J4500 models are now approaching the million-mile mark.
“They are still going strong,” says Mazzeo. “We average about 15,000 miles a month in our line-run service. The J4500 just runs great with very few issues.”
The 20 J4500 coaches in the Yankee Trails World Travel fleet range from model year 2002 up to 2009 and each average about 80,000 miles a year in charter service.
MCI looks to the future
MCI is looking ahead with further advances to enhance the smooth ride. Over the past two years the company took several technological leaps with the J4500. The most significant being the addition of wide-ride suspension, which gives the ride a smoother more confident feel. Improved hydraulics and shock placement also improve handling, cornering and crosswind control.
Electronic Stability Control automatically intervenes to give drivers a better sense of control when vehicle stability is threatened.
Additionally, Reverse Sensing, the Smartwave tire-pressure monitoring system and an Amerex fire-suppression system are standard features that help safeguard passengers.
MCI offers optional three-point seatbelts for additional in-cabin security and has released two versions of a pre-trip passenger Coach Safety Orientation DVD, one for seatbelt equipped coaches and another for non-seatbelt equipped coaches. Improvements that directly affect passenger comfort include new seating options, comfortable footrests and upgrades to the lavatory, starting with better lighting and an RV-style hookup.
MCI plans to offer clean-diesel engine choices in 2010 in accordance with the EPA regulations. Powertrain improvements include a higher axle ratio for increased efficiency, as well as an optional Road Relay 4 System to help optimize fuel economy. Operators can order an optional independent power source for adding features like GPS navigation systems.
The Blaupunkt Pro-Line entertainment system is available with an enhanced audiophile package of 15 tweeters and optional dual subwoofers along with flat-screen monitors, optional seatback audio, iPod connectivity, cordless microphone, satellite radio and satellite television. Owners can opt for a scenic view camera as well. Other techno-savvy options include Wi-Fi and power outlets for passengers who want to stay connected with their own electronic devices onboard.
Operators can outfit their J4500s with curbside and roadside hostess tables, and choose from a variety of new floor and trim options. Side marker lights now remain illuminated during daylight hours, raising coach visibility and imparting an extra dash of elegance.
MCI goes back to the future
As a new decade unfolds, MCI plans to take a more customized approach to building coaches.
“We plan to work closely with the operator to create a coach that is the best for their market,” says Patricia Ziska, MCI vice president and chief customer officer. “It is a bit like going back to the future. Historically, MCI production was built around the specific needs of the individual customer, but today we are seeing a return to that model as more owners opt for features that best serve their businesses.”
Peter Pan Bus Lines and Lewis Stages are two such examples of operators turning to customization for a competitive edge. For its 30 new MCI coaches Peter Pan selected a sculpted seat and an earthy-colored fabric woven exclusively for the operator that gives the cabin a more modern flair.
Peter Pan President Peter A. Picknelly, says his company appreciates the flexibility, responsiveness and resources of MCI to create a coach the way Peter Pan wants it with quality that stands the test of time.
The latest J4500 in the fleet for Lewis Stages, Salt Lake City, UT, comes with a custom-designed interior.
Additionally, the company ordered a removable galley that allows the company to change the standard 56-passenger coach into a 46-seat coach with galley in less than four hours, making it easy to adapt to smaller groups on longer tours. Richard Bizzaro, CEO of All Resort Coaches the parent company of Lewis Stages, says they need that kind of flexibility.
“Tour group planners are raising the bar on their equipment requirements to attract a new generation of customers,” says Bizzaro. “We have grown because of our relationship with MCI who has helped us give our passengers a land-going cruise experience that keeps them coming back.”
MCI has also been working to offer valuable beyond-the-road resources. In addition to its Emergency Roadside Assistance, Customer Service Line and Technical Support Center programs, the company says it has staffed up its technical field support crew and expanded its training programs.
Customers can now benefit from training visits from technical solutions managers, a series of Technical Tune-ups scheduled at the MCI Technical Training Institute in Louisville, KY, as well as on-line webinars that tackle topics ranging from dashboard diagnostics to preventative maintenance. Ziska says it is all about making sure MCI customers have more reasons to appreciate the J4500.
“The J4500 has not changed that much over the years,” says Mazzeo of Lakefront Lines. “It is just refined, which makes it an even better coach.”