Cover Story: Grech Motors Keeping the Creative Spark Burning
BY ROB SEMENTEK
The Grech Motors team has remained resolute and is more committed to our industry than ever, with new vehicles in the pipeline that will meet the needs of operators today and in the future.
“Creativity can solve almost any problem. The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything.” – George LoisFollowing the 2020 CD/NLA Show in Las Vegas, bus manufacturer and longtime industry supporter Grech Motors was optimistic.
“The 2020 CD/NLA Show in Las Vegas was by far the best show of our lives. The enthusiasm in the industry when we left the event was on a level that we had not experienced in all of our years,” says Grech Motors Vice President AJ Thurber.
The builder had served as Title Sponsor for the show, which attendees—from single-car operators to major networks—were calling the “best industry event ever.” Grech vehicles were prominently displayed on the bustling show floor, garnering attention, and most importantly, sales orders over the course of the four days. To say things were going well for Grech President Ed Grech and his team is an understatement.
However, weeks later that enthusiasm would be quashed as the worldwide outbreak of the coronavirus would slam the brakes on the luxury ground transportation industry. Not only did cars and shuttles stop moving, but Grech’s assembly line came to a halt as orders were cancelled and the supply chain (an issue that continues through today) made getting chassis and parts nearly impossible.
Like operators, the true mark of an enduring company is not how they rise to the occasion in the good times, but how they handle the bad times, and if there were any silver linings to the shutdowns it’s that Grech now had a little breathing room to focus heavily on innovation and R&D.
Fortunately, the creative spark is alive and well at Grech Motors, even during a period when many were forced to shutter their doors permanently. The company continually displays a streak of creative thinking, whether it’s developing trendsetting and safe executive vans, buses, and coaches, or whether they’re seeking new paths to travel. Grech’s forward-thinking business model led the company to thrive in a new market sector during the pandemic: recreational vehicles.
While domestic and international travel was largely halted during the pandemic’s earliest days, many Americans sought new vacation options. Among the most popular was the RV sector. Not only did this trend allow families to stay somewhat quarantined together, it gave them a new option to experience the country in a whole new way—at ground level. Recreational vehicle sales soared during the heights of COVID.
For Ed Grech and his team, this was a chance to let their creativity shine.
Seizing on a wide-open opportunity, this pivot exposed the innovative builder to a new market and allowed Grech’s team to continue doing what they do best: manufacturing high-quality vehicles.
The shift to the new marketplace was successful, but it also allowed Grech to continue servicing the industry they still view as their family.
“Our pivot into the RV market is what allowed us to be here today,” says Thurber. “As we are met with the challenges delaying our bus production plan, the RV sector is what will allow us to maintain our support of the luxury ground transportation industry and honor our warranty obligations on Grech Motors units already in service. Going forward, our intent is to continue in both market verticals.”
Alas, the challenges continue.
“There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.” – Edward de BonoAs the world finds its way to a new normal, the luxury ground transportation space is back up and running. Operators are seeing an increased demand for work, and in turn, they are looking to replace vehicles or augment their fleets. Unfortunately, the supply chain issues that all but halted global manufacturing are taking a bit longer to resolve.
“We are very grateful to see our luxury ground transportation customers getting back on track and moving the world again. Unfortunately, ‘normal’ is a bit further away for bus manufacturers as we continue to battle the world’s supply chain crisis along with a shortage in microchips, general parts, and labor that is crippling our supply of chassis from many manufacturers. While the demand is present for new bus sales as operators are rebuilding, our manufacturing to meet new orders might be some time away,” says Thurber.
For a company as devoted to providing stellar service as Grech, it’s frustrating not being able to deliver product to their customer base in the usual production time.
“Fortunately, just about everyone is somewhat aware of the global microchip shortage and overall supply chain crisis affecting all of us. However, I think it is difficult for operators to understand the gravity of the situation. It is extremely challenging to maintain customer confidence when the demand for new bus orders is present, yet we cannot accept new bus orders. We would love nothing more than to be in full bus production again and delivering to our loyal customers. Chassis that we ordered a year ago continue to get delayed and allocations reduced,” says Thurber.
However, their efforts to keep their existing products on the road, especially when it comes to service and warranty work, have not been hampered. “Our service and support teams that remained intact throughout the pandemic are still available to assist with all Grech Motors buses in service,” he adds.
Supply chain issues be damned; Grech isn’t going to stop looking for inspiration. In fact, the company is pleased to announce that they are in the process of developing a new take on one of their most popular vehicles.
“We have taken the downtime to prototype an entirely new GM40 model on the Freightliner chassis,” says Thurber. “It will be a hybrid between the previous GM40 and our flagship EG40.”
“This new model will once again set the benchmark in the luxury shuttle bus market with the highest level of standard equipment and the best possible fit and finish.” – AJ Thurber, Vice President of Grech MotorsWith a sleek, modern, and almost futuristic design, the new GM40 will have complete undercarriage luggage with a full passthrough bay behind the rear axle. By eliminating the rear luggage compartment, Thurber says that they are able to achieve a capacity for up to 43 passengers. Grech also is supplying the bus with a unique new luggage door system that incorporates lightweight aircraft resin-infusion fiber reinforced product doors with a pneumatic operation that will allow chauffeurs to open them all at once or individually at the push of a button or through a Bluetooth App while outside the bus.
“This new model will once again set the benchmark in the luxury shuttle bus market with the highest level of standard equipment and the best possible fit and finish,” says Thurber.
But the ingenuity doesn’t stop there: The builder is also in the early planning stages of prototyping an all-new GM33 model built on the Ford F600 to complement the new GM40 Freightliner. However, at this time, Grech is taking a wait-and-see approach when it comes to the electric vehicle movement due to concerns about the limited range operators would experience.
“EVs are not currently on our project list,” explains Thurber. “As Grech Motors manufacturers our vehicles on chassis supplied from Ford and Freightliner, we are dependent on the chassis manufacturers to provide a suitable electric chassis to build on. The conversion of gas or diesel chassis to electric is extremely expensive and these conversions have very limited range. These third-party conversations are not really feasible for luxury ground transportation operators yet. We also have to consider warranty support through the OEMs and serviceability.” You can bet that Grech will have a presence at the 2022 CD/NLA Show in Las Vegas, which will be like a homecoming of sorts for the manufacturer.
“We are very excited to be back at the CD/NLA Show in Las Vegas after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic,” says Thurber. “This is an industry with very deep-rooted, long-term relationships that we will always call our home.”
Once again, the CD/NLA Show is proud to have Grech onboard as a sponsor of the State of the Industry panel discussion at the event.
“Grech Motors has always taken pride in being one of the top sponsors and largest exhibitors at all CD/NLA events in addition to being the top contributor to the NLA. As we are rebuilding out of the pandemic and navigating the supply chain crisis, we look forward to getting back to our previous levels of commitment to the industry,” adds Thurber. [CD0322]