A representative speaks to one of the industry’s biggest selling points.
CAMP SPRINGS, Md. — Road kings of customized coaches beware, a new motorcoach monarch is storming the town. Prime Transportation, a ground transportation provider since 1982, has added to its fleet stables a 2004 Setra S417 that’s been converted into an elegant, special-events executive coach.
With the ability to seat 40 passengers in two separate sections, simply riding in the coach is a special event in and of itself. It offers entertainment options such as satellite television, Bluray DVD players, iPod integration, Wi-Fi connectivity, along with a back galley with granite counter tops and an ultra-luxurious restroom.
Operations manager Chris Johnson said the idea for this “luxury hotel on wheels” resulted from client feedback. “People tell us what they want and it’s our job to make it happen,” he says. “We were looking to replace a 40-passenger bus so we decided to build one that was versatile enough to fit a wide range of niches. It had to cater to the tastes of our high-end clientele but also be able to perform regular runs. It needed to be comfortable and have the amenities that make trips much easier, especially for groups that are out for weeks at a time.”
Substantial thought and planning went into the design, and with the help of Pat McCollum of Nashville Coach and Setra engineers, Johnson and his team conducted complete mock-ups inside the coach to determine how to get the most out of every inch of space to give clients more leg- and reclining room. The end result allowed the coach to be divided into different tiers of seating, similar to that of an airplane, with a 16-seat first-class front section and a 24-seat business-class rear section with seats arranged around tables to promote conversations. The spaces between the seats in the rear section vary in size so clients can be seated based on height for maximum comfort.
“We’ve been doing a high-end wine tour featuring celebrity chefs, and the client wanted the chefs up front so that people could come up from the rear to chat with them,” Johnson explains.
The lights and entertainment options in each zone work independently of one another to simultaneously accommodate up to three different forms of entertainment inside the coach. Everything inside the coach is linked to a generator so electronic equipment still runs when the engine is shut off. In addition, the roof-mounted air conditioners are ducted, and the air spreads more evenly around the coach. “The biggest obstacle was moving the A/C system to run on the generator, but Setra was very excited that we were doing this to one of [its] coaches and offered us on-call access to their engineers. As far as we know, we’re the first ones to gut out and rebuild on a Setra platform,” Johnson says.
Behind the rearmost seating section is the restroom and fully-stocked galley. A fridge, large coolers, and cabinets provide plenty of storage for all the snacks and condiments kept onboard. “We usually serve fruits on every trip with juice and breakfast bars in the morning,” Johnson says. “For lunch we can have catering brought on board or warm things up on the microwave or use a portable stovetop. I made eggs, bacon and waffles for a client one time. It depends on the client’s wishes. ‘No’ or ‘We can’t do that’ are not an option.”
The restroom boasts a flushable yacht toilet, huge tinted windows, a soap dispenser, hot and cold running water, a mirror above the sink, and a full-length mirror on the inside of the door.
“We wanted people not to feel like they were moving on a bus,” Johnson says of the coach’s deluxe design. “A lot of our clients have their own private jets, and we wanted them to say, ‘Wow, this looks and feels just like my jet.’”
Penny “PJ” Johnson, who joined the company in 2000 to promote its wedding transportation, says she markets the executive coach with every phone call.
“I ask people if they’ve heard about the new executive coach, and then I tell them all the details,” she says. “We put it out there on some of the other jobs to get exposure, even airport transfers. We show it to some of the hotels and we built a new website to showcase it. And when we have wedding clients, of course the brides want the antique vehicles, but we show the coach to the parents.” The coach is booked in July for both a wedding and a bachelorette party (unconnected to the wedding).
Once people see the coach and all the amenities it offers, they fall in love, Johnson says. “We took out an Israeli delegation one time, and all of the members — minus the Prime Minister, who wasn’t there — were blown away. There were some arguments about who got to ride in the executive coach, because the ones who rode in the other coaches wanted to be in this one. They were asking the different drivers what it was and how they could get on it instead of theirs.”
EXECUTIVE COACH FACTS
Project start: May 2010. Bus was driven to Nashville (Tenn.) Coach from ABC Companies in Costa Mesa, CA.
Project finish: November 2010
Length: 45 ft.
Height: 12 ft. 10 in.
GVW: 59,000 lbs.
Travel range: 1,300 mi.
Crew: one driver, one server that is also back-up driver
Engine: Detroit Diesel
Fuel capacity: 200 gallons
Average refueling cost: $750
Cost to build: used bus, $240,000; conversion, $100,000
Passenger capacity: 36-40
Entertainment options: five 26” HDTVs, two Bluray DVD players, four sat. TV receivers, and an iPod Dock.
Legroom: Variable with most in rear seats
Reclining room: Fully reclining
Tables: six tables in 40-pax floor plan; eight tables in a 36-pax floor plan
Name: Prime Transportation
Location: Camp Springs, Md.
Main service region: Washington, D.C .metro area, incl. Maryland and Virginia
Fleet size: 32
Vehicle types: antique cars, luxury sedans, limousines, executive vans, mini-buses, motorcoaches, special-event executive coach
Annual revenues: $2.2 million
Owners: Tom Smith; Penny “PJ” Johnson
Phone: (301) 449-7007
A representative speaks to one of the industry’s biggest selling points.
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