BY SUSAN ROSEWhen Allied Specialty Vehicles rebranded in November 2015, it gave itself the perfect name—REV Group—for a partnership deal that would be inked several months later. In February 2016, the “fast” sounding company signed a multiyear partnership with an authentically fast outfit, Team Penske, one of the foremost racing teams that began with legendary driver Roger Penske more than 50 years ago.
According to REV Marketing Coordinator Mikal Krummel, fans of NASCAR and IndyCar racing have likely already seen REV vehicles at the races and didn’t realize it. And with NASCAR reportedly generating sports TV viewership second only to football, that’s a lot of eyes on its brands. “It’s the shuttle buses that move passengers from the track to their cars, the sweepers cleaning up the track, RVs that are a fixture at the races, firetrucks and emergency vehicles that are always on hand—those are all REV vehicles. It’s really all of our products being utilized in one place and the partnership just made so much sense.”
In chauffeured transportation, REV may be best known for its luxury bus brands Federal and Krystal, which it began producing four years ago, but it’s actually the parent company to a large variety of specialty vehicle realms generating more than $2 billion in sales each year. In total, REV comprises 27 brands from mobility vehicles to school buses. REV also builds Champion, Goshen, ElDorado, Collins, ENC, and World Trans buses.
Production of legacy brands Krystal—its top-of-the-line offering—and Federal—the well-built value-centric line that also features ADA-compliant buses—was consolidated into one facility in Imlay City, Mich., with dedicated lines and staff and built to QVM and ISO standards.
“It’s pretty cool to carry on two names that have been in the industry for so long,” says Federal/Krystal Brand Manager Larry Mabery, who has been involved in bus manufacturing for nearly three decades and recently joined the sales side of REV’s luxury bus division. “If I’m buying a bus, I like the idea that it’s backed by a large, solid company. We have experience building buses—we’ve been doing this for decades. All of our buses, from the chassis on up, are assembled in the United States, with Krystal and Federal being built alongside each other in Imlay City, Michigan.” In fact, Mabery started on the assembly line, but now works closely with bus industry veterans John Walsh and Brent Phillips, president and VP of sales of REV Bus Group, respectively.
Mabery had an opportunity to meet with industry operators at the 2016 Chauffeur Driven Show in Washington, D.C., where REV had several models displayed on the show floor. “The first two questions that operators always ask are how many people will it fit and how much will it cost,” he jokes. “It’s different from a fleet buyer; operators are buying vehicles with their own money out of their own pockets, and we are sensitive to that,” noting that there are plenty of options in both lineups.
“The Krystal line is all new, completely redesigned for the updated Ford F-550 chassis and Freightliner S2C chassis—which is purpose-built for buses for a softer ride and with a rear fuel tank for better weight distribution,” he says. Krystal buses are available with a passenger capacity from 22 to 43 and a 4-year/50,000-mile warranty.
He adds that the molded fiberglass body has overlapping seams and is devoid of exterior trim (and the drilled holes that tend to accompany it) for better water sealing and insulation of electrical components. The AC evaporator/condenser is located on the roof of the bus, which he says offers 360-degree circulation for better and more even heating and cooling, while the roof-mount prevents damage to the unit from road salt and other debris.
The interior was also upgraded with many luxury touches, including proprietary seating designed specifically for this line by Premier Seating, 102-inch wide body, standard plug door, and optional flip-down 32-inch ceiling monitor. “A full-view observation window is new for the 2017 model year, which combined with tour-style side windows and a glass escape hatch in the ceiling, allows a lot of light into the interior and offers better views outside the vehicle. The entry door also has three-quarter-length glass so the driver can easily see the height of the curb.”
Mabery says that REV is getting ready to launch its new-from-the-ground-up bus on the F-550 chassis—a new design for Ford—that mimics the ride of the smooth S2C chassis. He says that the prototype will debut in early spring and will go into production starting in early summer.
Federal buses share many features, including an all-fiberglass body and available roof-mounted AC condenser options, but with various passenger capacities from 15 to 44. The multipurpose Spirit, the smallest model in the lineup and between the two brands, is built on the Ford E-450 chassis, seats up to 26, and includes the front observation window (new for this year). The larger Premier, built on the Freightliner M-2 chassis, is a 102-inch wide body bus with seating for up to 44 passengers. Unlike the Krystal line, however, both Federal models have available floorplan options for ADA compliance and come with a 3-year/50,000-mile warranty.
Although a good portion of its buses are custom designed and built for customers, REV has been increasing its on-demand stock at dealers. Mabery says that many operators need a new or replacement bus quickly and don’t have weeks to wait for a custom build, so he has focused on the most popular shuttle- and limo-style floorplans and options of each model for immediate delivery. To streamline the process even further, REV offers in-house leasing and financing.
Mabery says the REV Financial Services (REVFS) team provides its dealers with a flexible inventory finance program and retail financing for their customers, in addition to competitive commercial, consumer, and municipal finance options for its diverse product offering. REVFS also recently added an insurance product and extended warranty product for its customers, too.
One of the many steps REV has taken over the past year to minimize downtime was the introduction of ten regional technical centers, or RTCs, spaced strategically throughout the country to handle maintenance and warranty service claims on all REV products. Additionally, its network of 25 dealers across the U.S. and Canada also handle service and warranty issues. Most recently, it launched REV Parts, a dealer hotline that consolidates the availability of parts in one location for all REV products. For now, it is only available to REV dealers but is expected to be expanded in the future to include operators with in-house maintenance facilities.
Racing season will soon be heating up and REV will be front and center—quite literally—on the track. Team Penske drivers—including three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio “Spider-Man” Castroneves—also wear the REV logo on their fire suits. The partnership comes with access to hospitality suites, which REV shares with its dealers and customers alike as an added thank you. We’re pretty sure we know who they’ll be rooting for. [CD0217]