Vehicles

Prevost Brings Luxury Legacy To The Limo Market

Martin Romjue
Posted on September 22, 2015

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — At the center of a vast trade show floor in March, visitors could enter a three-sided courtyard ringed with three of the most upscale buses available to the chauffeured transportation industry.

The Prevost (pronounced PRAY-VO) models consisted of an H3-45 luxury seated coach, a Volvo 9700 seated coach, and a H3-45 VIP customized corporate coach, provided by Chariots of Hire in Louisville, Tenn. The $1 million converted bus combined the best elements of a hospitality suite with a corporate office suite.

The expanded Prevost exhibit — the largest motorcoach display at a limousine industry trade show to date — signals the motorcoach builder’s serious foray into high-end luxury ground transportation with a brand that belongs in the club of OEM chauffeured luxury makes. With its focus on passenger comfort and interior amenities, Prevost products rank in the highest tier of full-size motorcoach manufacturing.

Class Coach
Prevost has been building conversion motorcoach shells since the 1980s for motor home recreationalists, touring entertainers, and VIPs needing mobile workplaces — three of the most upscale market niches in the motorcoach market. Pursuing the limousine market was a natural evolution.

Michael Power, Prevost director of marketing and commercial administration.
Michael Power, Prevost director of marketing and commercial administration.

“This fit very well into what the limousine business is about,” says Michael Power, director of marketing and commercial administration at Prevost headquarters and motorcoach factory in Saint-Claire, Quebec. “It’s high-end, customer service oriented with a high-end product.”

Prevost has been fielding requests from operators in recent years for a motorcoach brand that fits the profile of a chauffeured fleet of luxury vehicle makes and models.

“We’ve seen great results and a lot of interest from operators who see the benefits of seated coaches,” Power says. “We know Prevost is renowned for its high-end products, no matter what the market.”

Since it was founded in 1924, Prevost has always focused on forward-seated passenger motorcoaches. It saw opportunity in the 1980s to develop a luxury motor home division that adapted commercial-level vehicles for custom luxury uses. Power refers to that manufacturing specialty as a “halo effect.”

“By having both key important markets, the limousine business is a segment where both come together,” Power says. “That’s where the fit comes in. It’s a segue from high-end motor homes to the high-end seated coaches we offer.”

About one fifth of Prevost coaches are built for the higher-end conversion market, and four-fifths for the seated coach market.

Profit Potential
In commercial charter transportation, profits boil down to the value of filling a seat. In a 56-passenger motorcoach, the dollar cost to fill a seat is lower than in a conventional chauffeured vehicle while the earnings per seat are higher, Power says.

“Motorcoaches are a great way for any limousine operation to differentiate itself in the market because of our brand and quality product,” Power says. “You can accommodate larger groups with high end product and service. We know how the limousine business really understands the customer service aspects.”

Operator Mark Parsons of Chariots of Hire in Louisville, Tenn., displayed his H3-45 VIP customized corporate coach March 16-18 at the International LCT Show in Las Vegas. The $1 million converted bus combined the best elements of a hospitality suite with a corporate office suite.
Operator Mark Parsons of Chariots of Hire in Louisville, Tenn., displayed his H3-45 VIP customized corporate coach March 16-18 at the International LCT Show in Las Vegas. The $1 million converted bus combined the best elements of a hospitality suite with a corporate office suite.

One Prevost client, Mark Parsons, owner of Chariots Of Hire in Louisville, Tenn., sees better numbers on his four Prevost H3-45 motorcoaches (model years 2012-2015) than on the other 28 vehicles in his chauffeured fleet. “Our business has been around for 26 years, however, we just started the motorcoach business in 2008. We see that trending upward and running seat numbers higher each year than the previous year.”

Getting into the motorcoach business can look like a big hurdle for many operators, Parsons says. It requires looking at the big picture: A high price point to buy in and get compliant, but then many years of higher margin and higher volume business on a bus that depreciates slower than any other fleet vehicle and retains a resale value 10-12% higher than competing makes.

“Your price point is quadrupling at least [compared to other chauffeured vehicles] but it’s a whole different ball game,” Parsons says. “Once you make that move, the return is mind-blowing. From our perspective, we are now using a vehicle that, when we flip it, we are creating equity, whereas on other vehicles the depreciation is overwhelming. That’s been a pleasant surprise for us. People who never bought motorcoaches will have margins they’ve never had before. You’re making money off motorcoaches on the back-end, not when you purchase them.”

Parsons chose Prevost because of its curb appeal and fit with a chauffeured luxury fleet. “That is the immediate litmus test. During the first 30 seconds, people are drawn visually to something.” Prevost’s infrastructure on financing, sales and maintenance boost confidence in the product, he says. One added feature Parsons values is that each Prevost bus comes with its own V.I.N. number allowing operators to track coaches in real time with the same capabilities as a GPS-based fleet tracking system. The number also enables instant, real-time, accessible service records.

Among Chariots’ four Prevost buses is what Parsons calls a Corporate Executive Day Coach, the converted luxury H3-45 model displayed at the International LCT Show in Las Vegas. The model fits the client demand Parsons gets in the Knoxville, Tenn., region that includes corporations and their events. “We use our motorcoaches as an extension of our cars. Our black car clients get to the venue or property where they are staying, and at some point during the stay, they will go somewhere together. We have the opportunity to put them into the motorcoach and one complements the other.”

Pure Luxury Transportation CEO and NLA President Gary Buffo is getting better cost and revenue results than expected on his fleet of 21 Prevost motorcoaches used for a variety of runs and services throughout the San Francisco Bay region.
Pure Luxury Transportation CEO and NLA President Gary Buffo is getting better cost and revenue results than expected on his fleet of 21 Prevost motorcoaches used for a variety of runs and services throughout the San Francisco Bay region.

One of Prevost’s biggest limousine industry clients so far, Gary Buffo, CEO and owner of Pure Luxury Transportation in Petaluma, Calif., says his 21 Prevost motorcoaches have performed better financially than expected. Pure Luxury provides daily commuter service for major companies in the Marin County to Silicon Valley tech corridor, which creates a steady, constant demand for motorcoaches.

“We are thoroughly impressed with the low cost to operate the Prevost since we purchased them,” Buffo says. “Prevost has been a great player with us. Our charter business has taken off with people seeing the Prevost buses on the road five days per week.”

Amenities
For luxury vehicle clients, such as corporations, technology commuters and upscale wine tour visitors, Prevost provides the well-appointed interiors typical of chauffeured vehicles. “They make a beautiful, well-designed bus. We could tell everything in the interior is a quality product in how it looks and feels.”

The defining interior characteristics in a Prevost are the reclining upholstered leather seats and individual entertainment systems. Seating configurations can vary from 2 + 2 with maximum seating up to 56 passengers, to 2 + 1 or 1 + 1. These options enable Prevost interiors to mimic business and first class cabins on airliners. “We can do everything from a full unit with couches and kitchen to a board room with meeting area,” Power says.

Prevost motorcoaches are built to last on average one mllion miles or 25 years. A typical Prevost client keeps a motorcoach eight to 12 years before selling it into a secondary market. “We are still servicing vehicles built in the 1990s,” Power says.

Safety
With the widespread coverage of bus accidents and fatalities, manufacturers have boosted safety features in recent years. Prevost coaches come with standard and optional equipment such as three-point seatbelts, fire suppression systems, tire pressure monitoring, welded railing systems with tested strength of 20g, adaptive cruise control, electronic stability programs, fire retardant fabrics and materials, and easy access switches and buttons for the driver. On 2016 models, Prevost will install energy saving battery systems that can boost fuel economy.

Service & Support
Prevost’s training schools and programs span an entertainment coach driving academy in Tennessee to programs for operators, mechanics and seated coach drivers. The training includes classroom and online formats backed up with webinar libraries. The drivers academy curriculum covers CDLs, driving dynamics and techniques, and customer courtesy.

Technology and maintenance training sessions are held at Prevost plants, at customer locations, at trade group meetings and regional trade shows.

Prevost offers a Hired Heroes program that helps connect drivers with military service and veteran backgrounds with motorcoach operators looking for qualified drivers.

The service network includes 10 locations in the U.S. and Canada, 200 authorized service providers system-wide, and 35 service vehicles based in strategic cities that will go to the customer for repair and maintenance support.

For the Volvo D-13 engine, Volvo service providers can perform maintenance work depending on their level of certification, with 150 situated across the U.S. and Canada. Information about the entire Prevost service and support location network is accessible via apps from the iTunes and Android stores.

Making Motorcoaches
Prevost motorcoach shells are all integral, all stainless steel bodies made for commercial use, and not built on chassis. The additional sturdiness allows for long mileage and trip durability in harsh climates that require intense engine and interior heating and cooling.

All motorcoaches are built in factories with ISO 9001 and 14001 certifications. Seated coaches, including all models sold to the limousine industry, are completely built in-house in Sainte-Claire, Quebec. Conversions with showers, kitchens and recreational vehicle amenities are modified among five approved conversion companies in the U.S.

The Prevost team at the 2015 International LCT Show in Las Vegas March 16-18 included (L to R): Bill Jensen, Mike Power, Robert Hitt, Tony Febbo, Katlin Voigt, Jay Snead, Jerry Doughty, Ron Rogers, Ward Hicken and Steve Zeigler.
The Prevost team at the 2015 International LCT Show in Las Vegas March 16-18 included (L to R): Bill Jensen, Mike Power, Robert Hitt, Tony Febbo, Katlin Voigt, Jay Snead, Jerry Doughty, Ron Rogers, Ward Hicken and Steve Zeigler.

FASTFACTS: Prevost

  • Headquarters: Sainte-Claire, Quebec, Canada
  • Production locations: Sainte-Claire, Quebec and Plattsburgh, N.Y. 
  • Founded: 1924
  • Group: Prevost is part of the Volvo Group 
  • Bus models: X3-45, H3-45, H3-41, Volvo 9700
  • Employees: 1191
  • Key executives: Ron Rogers, VP, Conversion Coach Sales; Robert Goodnight, VP, New Coach Sales 
  • Website: www.prevostcar.com 
  • Contact: Katlin Voigt, marketing coordinator at [email protected]

Prevost Models
These are primary specifications for each model marketed to the chauffeured transportation industry:

Model name: H3-45/41
Length: 45 ft. / 41 ft.
Passenger capacity: 56 / 48
Luggage capacity: 470 ft3 / 13.31m3 and 355 ft3 / 10.05 m3
Engine type: Volvo D13
Model landing page URL: https://www.prevostcar.com/content/prevost-h-series

Model name: X3-45
Length: 45 ft.
Passenger capacity: 55
Luggage capacity: 406 ft3 / 11.49 m3
Engine type: Volvo D13
Model landing page URL: https://www.prevostcar.com/content/prevost-x-series

Model name: Volvo 9700
Length: 45 ft.
Passenger capacity: 56
Luggage capacity: 400 ft3
Engine type: Volvo D13
Model landing page URL: https://www.prevostcar.com/content/volvo-9700

Additional Seated coaches:
volvo9700.com
www.prevostcar.com/content/x3-45-commuter-coach

VIP, motor homes and entertainment models:

https://www.prevostcar.com/content/entertainer-tour-prevost

https://www.prevostcar.com/content/office-mobility-ultimate-class%E2%80%A6

Related Topics: buses, charter and tour operators, Gary Buffo, motorcoaches, new vehicles, OEMs, Prevost

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