Baby Boomers are still the most fearful of driverless vehicles.
The variety of motorcoaches available to operators will widen the industry client base this year as Temsa has added its TS45 model to the market and established bus manufacturers MCI, Setra and Prevost enhance their vehicle offerings.
The bus improvements all add up to more luxury and comfort options, especially for chauffeured transportation operators looking to extend high-end service and style to large-scale group transportation.
Motorcoaches require a bigger financial investment and more time devoted to compliance and maintenance. But with operators who have ventured into the big bus market reporting healthy profits, the upscale designs and multiple models beckon more companies to enter this transportation niche.
LCT contacted the bus manufacturers for an update on the 2015 models:
Constructed in Turkey out of a single body steel frame, the Temsa motorcoaches are an ideal brand of luxury bus for limo operators because of their solid construction and reliability. The TS45 is Tesma’s newest coach, a 45-foot bus that is the brand’s largest in the U.S. Temsa has seen strong market growth for its mid-coach TS35 and TS30 models in the limo industry. The TS45 is Temsa’s first full-size motorcoach.
Timothy Vaught, vice president of sales and product development at Temsa, says the three bus sizes fit the reliability and comfort standards of luxury transportation. “That’s the concept for our advertising and has been since the beginning. With these three products we feel we are competitive with anyone else on the market, and that we can offer something that fits for the operator, whether for limo business or charter tour,” he says.
Vaught says interest among limo operators is growing. “I think for the limo operator, motorcoaches can give them a view into how they can expand their business. If you have a corporate account that calls a limo operator needing to move 40 people, the operator usually has to farm out to a charter tour company. But if they have that product in-house, they have more control of their service and equipment.”
The MCI Commuter Coach is sold mostly to public transit agencies, but with limo operators seeing an increase in demand for regularly scheduled private shuttle transportation routes, this motorocoach could become a viable option. “It’s the bulletproof workhorse,” says Brant Maitland, vice president of marketing and product planning at MCI. “It is reliable, durable and economical.”
As more limo operators look toward group transportation, some have secured lucrative contracts with private companies that want regularly scheduled bus services for their employees. Northern California’s Silicon Valley has become a hotspot for such contracts, and the MCI Commuter Coach offers a reliable solution for daily commuter traffic.
For Vaught, he has noted that limo operators have a different mentality than the typical bus operator, and that low-cost alternatives like the Commuter Coach can be good vehicles for operators looking to try out the market. “It’s interesting, I definitely see limo operators as having a different mindset than your typical bus operator. Bus operators tend to be very into the shop and operations aspect of the business, and the limo guys are way more into customer service and the way the company is presented. But the maintenance side might be something new to them. It takes a whole different sort of mindset because buses are not as easy to take care of as cars.”
Prevost is entering into the luxury bus market with three models to fit the needs of a variety of operators.
Engine: Volvo D13 435 hp
Length: 45 ft.
Interior amenities: Front and rear emergency roof hatches, electrical windshield blind, overhead parcel racks with safety cords, lavatory, passenger clock display, seats with armrests, footrests, wing-styled headrests and 3-point 20G seat belts for passengers and driver.
Notable features: Bosch Proline III audio, 15-in. fixed monitors with sharp resolution.
The Volvo 9700 is a durable, finely made bus that has forward-facing seats with electrical outlets throughout the cabin and a powerful WiFi system to keep passengers connected.The 9700 covers long distances economically, requiring fewer gear changes to maintain a higher average speed. For uphill grades, the high-torque engine delivers enough power to safely move the bus up steep inclines.
The Prevost H3 is the flagship bus for the company, and it has many notable features that make it an ideal bus for upscale group transportation jobs. The H3 has upgraded leather seating, and different interior seating configurations that include conference tables, a galley and lavatory. The bus is ideal for corporate clients who need to attend meetings in faraway cities, providing a comfortable experience for work to continue, and there is extra storage room under the bus for ample luggage.
The X3 is a more upscale alternative often configured for VIP style seating. The bus is popular with many entertainers and high-profile clients, and it has advanced safety features such as the rollover protection system and electronic stability program. The interior also has a fire detection and suppression system with fire extinguishers onboard.
The overall goal is to educate operators that a monocoque, single body luxury bus can provide operators with another revenue stream, says John Snead, regional sales manager for Prevost. The depreciation rate on large buses is much lower than on cutaway chassis, and the monocoque buses are built for greater durability and longer use. This boosts the resale value, and helps offset the initial investment price and maintenance costs.
Engine: Cummins ISX 12L, 425 hp engine
Length: 45.58 ft.
Interior amenities: full fabric luxury interior, one-piece handrails, LED lighting
Notable features: Theater-style tiered seating in first three rows, ergonomic cockpit, redesigned A/C compressor for reduced noise and vibration
The MCI J4500 appears regularly at International LCT Show exhibits, a testament to its status as a versatile and durable motorcoach for charter and tour as well as limousine operators. MCI has added some new features for the 2015 model.
Limo operators consider power outlets for portable devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops as a must-have amenity, says Brent Maitland, vice president of marketing and product planning at MCI. The J4500 has made sure to put outlets on every seat. An option for USB ports already built into the outlets is coming soon.
“Each seat is a double seat like an airplane, and we can provide WiFi systems and a router too if the operator chooses so that people can be connected,” Maitland says. “The outlets and connectivity are by far-and-away the most mandatory item requests we get from customers.”
The MCI J4500 has an upscale wood finish on the aisle down the center. Brent Maitland, vice president of marketing and product planning at MCI, notes that wood paneling has become more popular on coaches and that it has a better visual aesthetic. “I think it makes the coach look less sterile and more high-end, and it is more durable for operators as well,” he says. “So it has become very popular.”
The Setra is considered one of the most luxurious and expensive brands on the market. Popular in Europe, Setra is owned by Daimler, which also makes Mercedes-Benz. Therefore, it receives the same kind of craftsmanship and design as high-end Mercedes-Benz vehicles.
The S417 model is the flagship bus with many interior comfort features unique to Setra. Most noticeable is a window roof running down the center aisle, and also a sunken lavatory in the middle of the coach (as opposed to the back). This enables the back area to have a panoramic window with custom leather captain’s chairs around a conference table.
“In general, it’s a premium product,” says Brent Maitland, vice president of marketing and product planning at MCI, which distributes Setra. “It participates in rare air. For people who can pay the price point, the feedback has been exceptional. They often build their business around this model, knowing they’ll be offering something different to their customers.” MCI is a distributor for Setra, and the model does not sell in great quantity because of its cost, Vaught says. “But that’s intentional. Volume and premium don’t often go hand-in-hand.”
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