Vehicles

MCI Boosts Motorcoach Options For Operators

Martin Romjue
Posted on July 4, 2018

The MCI flagship model, the J4500, comes in multiple design and seat configurations, ranging from 52 to 60 passengers. (photo: MCI)
The MCI flagship model, the J4500, comes in multiple design and seat configurations, ranging from 52 to 60 passengers. (photo: MCI)
If you’re considering the coach business or are ready move beyond the start-up phase, MCI offers a strategy and bus models suited to operators of all fleet experience levels.

North and South Carolina operators Jeff and Laura Canady have found out how the MCI approach can make luxury motorcoach service possible. Going on four years with MCI, the Canadys’ companies — CLT Express Livery, SC Express Livery, SC Coaches, and Charleston Style Limo — make use of MCI’s motorcoach regeneration program.

Motorcoaches Present Many Options

The program sells refurbished and regenerated MCI coaches outfitted with new engines, transmissions, and interiors, starting with 2007 models and newer. They can be customized to match an operation’s needs and tastes.

MCI’s pre-owned motorcoach regeneration program has helped North Carolina operators Jeff and Laura Canady develop a service for corporate and leisure clients. (photo courtesy of Canadys)
MCI’s pre-owned motorcoach regeneration program has helped North Carolina operators Jeff and Laura Canady develop a service for corporate and leisure clients. (photo courtesy of Canadys)
So far, Canady has bought eight 56-passenger J4500s from model years 2010-2012, which complement two 34-passenger Temsa coaches in a fleet of 90 vehicles. CLT Express Livery runs two offices, with its main one in Charlotte that serves bus clients who break down 75% corporate and 25% leisure. Its related SC-branded companies in Aiken, S.C., serve a reverse bus client mix with three-fourths consisting mostly of school groups, sports teams, church groups, and college trips.

A pre-owned bus is often a good way to test the market and gain experience at a lower price point. “I’m not in a position to buy a new $500,000 coach, but with my rep I can save tens of thousands buying a regenerated bus and still provide good corporate service without embarrassment,” he says.

Canady’s MCI coaches came with about 400,000 miles on average, and ranged in price from $195,000 to $245,000, depending on the model year and upgrades. “It’s been an eight on a scale of one to 10,” he says of the quality compared to a new bus being a 10. “It’s as good as you can hope for something pre-owned.”

In his market, a new bus won’t make any more money than a refurbished used one, since he can charge the same rates. “I’d rather buy two buses at $245,000 than have one new bus at $495,000,” he says.

The coaches arrive clean and in top condition. If something’s not right, MCI fixes it within the first 30 days, Canady says. He also values the strong parts and support relationship MCI offers, with facilities in Kentucky and New Jersey within a reasonable distance of CLT Express Livery’s Carolinas locations.

“I can have parts the next day and there’s an accessible technician available during normal working hours,” Canady says. “My goal is to have similar coach buses so when my mechanic works on one he knows how to work on the other.”

MCI vice president Brent Maitland has seen growth in the company’s business from operators running black vehicles moving into motorcoaches. (photo: MCI)
MCI vice president Brent Maitland has seen growth in the company’s business from operators running black vehicles moving into motorcoaches. (photo: MCI)
A Growing Motorcoach Market

The MCI pre-owned coach program evolved from the bus maker’s leading market position in an industry where motorcoach demand is growing and more luxury transportation operators are seeking to buy motorcoaches in a competitive market.

New motorcoach sales have trended upward for most of this decade, says Brent Maitland, the vice president of marketing and product planning for Des Plaines, Ill.-based Motor Coach Industries (MCI). Citing data from the American Bus Association, Maitland said OEMs sold 2,470 units to private and public transportation sectors in 2017, compared to 2,357 in 2016. Most of those sales are made to private motorcoach, charter, and tour operations, with the public sector buying 400+ motorocoaches in 2016 and 2017, he says.

Maitland estimates MCI captures about 43% of the motorcoach market overall. The U.S. market has hit its highest peaks since 1999 when OEMs sold 2,800 buses. The market dipped in 2010 with 1,184 unit sales.

“We’ve seen growth in our business with companies that run black cars and are moving into coaches,” he says.

Maitland characterizes the expanding motorcoach market, which now has at least six key players, as a competitive one. “MCI has always been known as the workhorse of the industry with its vehicle reliability, engineering, testing, quality parts, and design,” he says.

MCI focuses heavily on the U.S. and Canadian motorcoach markets. “It’s allowed us to build a product designed for it,” he says. “You have a lot of desert and mountains that create a tough environment for coaches. Not everything coming into the market is at the same build level as MCI. That’s one way we differentiate ourselves.”

Investing In Equipment And Support

MCI invests in an extensive OE parts and service network, with 15 parts distribution centers and seven sales and service centers throughout North America.

“Investing in keeping customers successful in running their businesses is equally important to the vehicle itself,” Maitland says.

MCI’s top sellers are the J4500 and D4505 motorcoaches. It also plans to start offering a 35-foot J3500 mid-sized coach that seats 40-44 passengers, and this year launched its next-generation ADA accessible D45 CRT LE, featuring a patent-pending second door low entry vestibule with seating for passengers using wheelchairs and mobility devices.

The popular J series mostly appeals to a long-haul over-the-road private charter transportation market, as well as corporate trips. The J series contains luxury amenities such as styling by Designworks (a BMW Group company),  options in RGB programmable lighting, and seating and trims, along with technology equipment such as 110-volt plugs, Wi-Fi, and video systems.

The D series is its leading model for commuter and line hauls, selling in the private and public sectors. It’s commonly bought by public transit agencies that offer scheduled fixed routes. “The J has the ability to differentiate the look and branding of a coach,” Maitland says.

The popular J series of MCI motorcoaches mostly appeals to a long-haul over-the-road private charter transportation market, as well as corporate trips. (photo: MCI)
The popular J series of MCI motorcoaches mostly appeals to a long-haul over-the-road private charter transportation market, as well as corporate trips. (photo: MCI)
More Technology, Safety, & Comfort

The J4500 can be configured with 52 to 60 seats, depending on a buyer’s preference, with lower seat counts freeing up even more legroom. The MCI models, which now use thinner seats as part of a reformat and redesign, offer about a half-inch per seat extra legroom than competitors, he says.

“A passenger has two inches more legroom than a few years ago because of the changes we’ve made that add more space to the interior and seating suppliers who have made the seating more comfortable.”

Even at the maximum 60 passenger design on the J4500, MCI can maintain a comfortable seat pitch. “We’re the only ones who can do that in a 45-foot motorcoach. It provides opportunity for extra revenue.”

Among tech features, the J-series offers adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation, and a radar-based detection system that can trigger accident warnings and apply brakes. 2019 models will include an advanced, next generation Wingman Fusion system that offers more computer processing and added cameras to detect stationary vehicles and objects, and provide automatic braking as an option

MCI is offering a first chance to test drive the 35-foot version of the industry’s best selling J4500 – the J3500 -- during a road tour of MCI sales and service centers nationwide. It features J-coach luxury in a smaller size with an added bonus of seating for up to 44 passengers, best-in-class payload, and parts commonality with the J4500.(photo: MCI)
MCI is offering a first chance to test drive the 35-foot version of the industry’s best selling J4500 – the J3500 -- during a road tour of MCI sales and service centers nationwide. It features J-coach luxury in a smaller size with an added bonus of seating for up to 44 passengers, best-in-class payload, and parts commonality with the J4500.(photo: MCI)
New Models For Different Markets

MCI has also tapped into a more flexible motorcoach market with its J3500 model as the company saw the trend toward transporting smaller groups. That way operators don’t lose money carrying 44 or fewer passengers in a 57-passenger motorcoach. The J3500 also is easier to maneuver and offers fuel efficiency. Prototype models are hitting the road this summer for tests and customer demos. Production will start in the first quarter of 2019. MCI is also developing electric J- and D-series motocoaches scheduled for production in 2020.

Related article: MCI Ready To Showcase 35-Foot Coach

Long-Range Fleet Investment

One advantage of motorcoaches is their long lifecycles, typically 10-20 years, Maitland says. “The semi-monocoque unibody structure provides a better ride quality, a higher passenger deck for better viewing, and larger baggage bays for storage. The structure itself provides support for the vehicle. It’s designed for a longer vehicle life.”

Catering To Luxury Operators

As a result of pursuing the luxury transportation market, MCI has gained valuable feedback from limo operators who prioritize branding, fit and finish, and a helpful service network, Maitland says.

“When you have people used to running SUVs and cars going into motorcoaches, you better have good training and service available nearby,” Maitland says. “We have a term ‘ReliaCare’ service and support to make sure operators are as effective as they can be. We do all or most of the service for them. We train them to stock the right parts. It’s not the same as running a car. We try to make it easy to do business with us.”

Information: www.mcicoach.com/luxury-coaches/luxury-coaches.htm

Related Topics: bus manufacturers, Jeff Canady, Laura Canady, MCI, motorcoach operators, motorcoaches, new vehicles, North Carolina operators, OEMs, South Carolina operators, used vehicles

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