The concept vehicle looks like a wonderful place to ride along as a passenger.
When LGE Coachworks was looking to come out with a new design, Galbreath and partner David Sacco decided to focus on building party buses that can be used for both luxury limousine-style transportation as well as five-star business executive class.
The creative engineering team at LGE has always tried to challenge itself, and going into the company’s seventh year, Galbreath says he’s most excited about a new interior design that LGE is debuting next year. “There’s a new luxury style that is becoming popular, that has more of a living room feel,” he says.
The new bus designs create an inviting atmosphere with bucket seats, couches, and a booth dinette with two people on either side of the table. It has a mix of limo-style bench-seating with forward-facing seats and a table up front. “It was a build I came up with and it really came out of a result of me and my team having done this [bus manufacturing] for a while, and wanting to do something new,” Galbreath says. “I got to the point where I wanted to make something that I would want to ride in, and we’ve seen a whole market embrace this type of vehicle, so we’re excited to keep going with it.”
The company offers four options for interior bus design built on a range of chassis sizes for varying passenger capacities. The options include the new luxury/business combo design; the full party bus design with bench seating, dancing poles, and LED light lasers; a limo bus with subdued lighting; and the forward-facing shuttle. LGE Coachworks has set a goal for 2016 to manufacture 100 buses, and Galbreath feels confident the team will hit that target thanks to the new design, new facility, a talented staff, and a growing demand.
FASTFACTS: LGE Coachworks
Location: Erie, Penn.
Service: Limo and shuttle bus coachbuilder
Owners: Randy Galbreath and David Sacco
Annual Revenues: $5 million
Chassis offered: Freightliner, F-650, F-750, E-450, F-550, Sprinter
Contact: (800) 209-3985
Being flexible and adjusting to changing demands helps the company succeed, Galbreath says. “It’s a big thing to change with the times, and that’s evident in our new luxury coach design. It’s not all about the party bus anymore. You’ve got the Baby Boomer crowd that wants to go to concerts, games, or nights out, and they want to be in something comfortable.”
Method of Production
At LGE Coachworks, bus building is locked down to a science, Galbreath says. The company has an exclusive partnership with Forest River, a nearby manufacturer of recreational RV chassis and shells. LGE receives full units and then installs the interiors with custom, self-built parts. Galbreath works closely with his business partner and chief of engineering David Sacco to work out the designs. The two complement each other well in the pre-production phase, he says.
“I come up with a lot of the ideas, but it has to be able to be physically built, and David brings me back down a little bit on some designs. But I trust him because he’s an extremely talented crafter, so we’ll battle over some of the details, but then we’ll compromise and get the build done.”
LGE does not sub contract out any production for interior parts. Everything is built in-house. Sacco wields two CNC machines, one for metal and one for acrylic and foam, and all upholstery is done in-house as well. The team has moved into a new facility in Erie, Pa., a 15,000 sq. ft. building with seven vehicle bays and a crew of 23 employees. The production increase Galbreath credits to the growing skill level and efficiency of his employees. “Four years ago, we were only building two buses a month, but now we’re up to seven. Last year, we doubled the size of our facility, and we use every inch of our space. We are very efficient.”
Galbreath says most of his business comes from repeat customers or referrals, and that by listening to customers and improving the quality and design of his buses, he’s gaining new business from markets that now include overseas operators. “I’ve got one bus now going to Saudi Arabia, which is a special custom-build with an onboard lavatory, and we’re in talks with building buses for operators in Russia, Japan, and Nigeria,” he says. “I wasn’t doing anything overseas with buses until about 18 months ago. Now we get many calls for it. It’s crazy I don’t really know how they all heard about us, but it’s a great thing.”
“The biggest thing is to listen to customer feedback,” says Galbreath about product improvement. “If someone calls and something breaks, or if they want to see a new feature on their next bus, we take that information and talk about how we can make things better. If we come up with an improvement that works great for one customer, we might apply that to every vehicle and increase our overall product quality.”
Safety Comes First
One of the biggest issues that Galbreath reports hearing from his customers about their business is the ever increasing cost of insurance for party buses. Because safety assurances can help sway insurance providers, LGE makes sure buses are Department of Transportation (DOT) approved for every state and approved by Altoona, a bus safety testing company which puts vehicles through chair-pulls, crash tests, and other safety protocols. The vehicles also come with standard roof hatches, pop-out windows and escape hatches, all required by DOT laws in various states.
Through the company’s journey, Galbreath credits his team for LGE’s achievements and considers every employee a vital player.
“I would consider every person a core person. We haven’t had anyone quit in three or four years, and we treat all the employees as friends.
"It makes it difficult sometimes during growth because we’re a laid back company, but everyone here is extremely proud of what they do. We live in a small country town, have awesome employees, and have an awesome product. We sell it to the bigger cities while having a great time doing it.”
The Gronk Bus
LGE Coachworks has just completed a bus for NFL player and party bus enthusiast Rob Gronkowski. Nicknamed “The Gronk Bus,” the vehicle has an NFL and New England Patriots theme with a football field ceiling, pigskin leather vinyl wrap, and Patriot colored seats and acrylic lights. “I got to hang out with [Rob] and his Dad and brothers in Buffalo, N.Y. They’re from Buffalo, and it’s only an hour and a half from our shop — great guys,” he says. The bus has its own website, www.thegronkbus.com, and is used frequently for tailgating.
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