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ABC Companies, Van Hool Mark 30 Years As Family Ventures

Posted on August 8, 2017

Van Hool and Cornell family and executive teams have worked for 30 years to make the motorcoach one of the most driven in the private sector bus market (photo courtesy of ABC/Van Hool)
Van Hool and Cornell family and executive teams have worked for 30 years to make the motorcoach one of the most driven in the private sector bus market (photo courtesy of ABC/Van Hool)

Since the two family owned and run businesses joined in 1987, the shared vision of Van Hool and ABC Companies has centered on developing and relationships with customers.

With a unique premium European product offering, supported by ABC’s established distribution, sales, parts and service network, the partners continue to distinguish the brand and demand for the Van Hool product in the American marketplace.

From the start, both families understood that listening and responding to customer needs would be crucial to success. Over three decades, Van Hool has modified equipment models and introduced ongoing series of fully-Americanized versions that have steadily gained popularity, grown market and mindshare, and increased customer loyalty year in and out.

“There are many key turning points in our history together,” said Roman Cornell, ABC Chief Commercial Officer. “And it’s exciting to see where the breakthroughs occurred.”

Most notably was the breakaway success of the Van Hool C2000 series introduced in 2000. Built exclusively from the top down for the North American market, within a year it not only became the most popular imported coach in the U.S., it also outsold all the other imported coach models combined. 

“Customers loved this product because it was the direct result of listening to their input,” Cornell said. “While they know to expect premium quality and support from Van Hool and ABC, I believe what they really appreciate is the hands-on aspect of working with both of our companies.”

Today, with more than 10,000 Van Hool coaches on the road, and three generations of ABC and Van Hool family leadership, the brand dominates the highway coach private market segment. “Customers know that we are just as invested in surviving and succeeding as they are,” said Filip Van Hool, CEO of the eponymous firm. He believes the family-oriented cultures at ABC and Van Hool makes it easy for customers to do business with their firms. Van Hool says the arrangement brings significant benefits not applicable when transacting with a larger corporate structure.

“Our priority is to give customers the confidence and the solutions they need to support their operations,” Dane Cornell said. He believes ABC’s entrepreneurial business approach supports that goal. Cornell notes few manufacturers can claim that they’ve had three generations actively run a successful business, a trait they share with many operators throughout North America.

Accessibility and access within both organizations often results in product modifications directly forged by customer needs and preferences. A few prime examples of customer collaboration include the introduction of the Van Hool TD925 double deck coach. This double deck coach delivered a high-capacity solution to Coach USA for the launch of its Megabus market expansion and is the go-to solution for many Silicon Valley employee shuttle programs. More than 600 Van Hool double deck coaches in the U.S.

Similarly, the CX35 Van Hool model was introduced to answer operator calls for a smaller version of the popular CX45 foot coach with a reduced passenger capacity that would not sacrifice the “big coach” look, style, and feel. The new CX35 model has been another success with orders exceeding expectations and thanks to standardized design and manufacturing and numerous interchangeable parts with the 45’ version, operators can realize significant parts, as well as driver training savings when running both models in their fleets.

The partners are committed to future-looking innovation and investments that contribute to greater control and efficiencies for their customers and business strategies. Plans to expand and strengthen their parts business supply chain will afford faster access to needed components for customers, Roman Cornell said. “We envision growing our supply chain and distribution network to tightly sync with operator requirements when and where support is needed all over North America.”

Cornell also references the numerous technologies emerging each year that can make operations more efficient. “ABC and Van Hool are focused on rapid technology adoption, and whenever possible being first to market with tech-driven solutions for our operators.”

Source: ABC press release

ABC Companies is a leading provider to the transportation industry with diverse product and service offerings that cover a full spectrum of operational needs including new and pre-owned full size highway coach equipment and specialty vehicles. ABC supports customers with a comprehensive after sale service network for service and repairs, collision services, extensive OEM and quality aftermarket parts needs for transit, motorcoach and heavy-duty equipment from nine strategically placed locations throughout the U.S. and Canada. Additionally, private and municipal financing and leasing options are available through the company's financial services group – one of the largest financial service providers within the industry. Information: ABC Companies at (800) 222-2875 or visit www.abc-companies.com  

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