When Gustave Eiffel was commissioned to build his namesake tower for the 1889 World’s Fair, he turned to his company’s senior engineers, Maurice Koechline and Emile Nouguier, to design the structure. Their creative input, along with the work of architect Stephen Savestre, led to the construction of one of the world’s most beloved and photographed attractions, which was ranked as the world’s tallest manmade structure until 1930.
Similarly, when engineer Joseph Strauss was in the planning stages of the Golden Gate Bridge, he utilized the expertise of a small team of engineers and architects to create the impossible where others had failed before him: a suspension bridge that traverses swirling tides and frequent strong winds. The Golden Gate’s innovative construction, art deco elements, and exceptional color have led to the bridge to be named one of the Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Like these revered marvels, Grech Motors has been reinvigorating the luxury ground transportation industry by merging artistry and design with purposeful utility for its shuttles and Sprinters. The Riverside, California-based company is on the forefront of the industry, staying ahead of the game by continually improving and re-engineering each generation of vehicles for the needs of today’s operators—from 14-passsenger Sprinters to the largest GM 45 with room for up to 52 passengers. When operators choose to “Go Grech,” they’re making a statement that superior engineering and stunning aesthetics are equally important for their clients.
“It all starts by listening to the best designers in the field—our customers,” says Founder Ed Grech. “When they come up with a good idea, we strive to make it reality. I stand by the belief that our products not only have to look good but be completely functional. We have been leading innovation for the past 30 years and will continue to do so in the future.” Taking that customer vision through to completion certainly requires a leader, but more than just one man. One of Ed Grech’s key insights to creating a successful business is that it begins by assembling a great team; as such, he runs his company with the conviction that their product is nothing without the people behind it. This is the way, he says, that the company is able to stay ahead of the game and innovate in the luxury transportation world.
“It all starts by listening to the best designers in the field—our customers. When they come up with a good idea, we strive to make it reality.” – Ed Grech, Founder of Grech Motors
Like Eiffel and Strauss, Grech turns to the best of the best to collaborate on the manufacturing of his vehicles. Grech’s design and production team, Luis Alvarez and David Reagan, have both been working with Ed Grech for more than 30 years. “I communicate with Luis and David every day about design ideas and product improvements,” says Grech. “Without them, this company wouldn’t be what it is.”
But turning an idea or concept into a physical product takes a lot of work. Constantly innovating to crank out new designs while maintaining a consistently high level of quality is even harder, yet Alvarez and Reagan continue to make it happen.
Design Begins With the Basics
Throughout his tenure with Grech, Reagan has worked in every department related to vehicle production. He began his career in the welding shop, and then moved over to electrical, trim, mechanical, and service, ultimately becoming Grech’s head of research and development. This experience, combined with a natural inclination for tinkering with things, has given Reagan unique insights into how to build high-quality vehicles.
In his opinion, design accounts for not only the way something looks, but also the way it works. Without a solid foundation, a good-looking vehicle won’t last very long. Reagan approaches design by making sure the fundamentals are properly executed. Some of these things may seem to be small details that passengers might not notice, but, to an operator, the little things often make the biggest difference in terms of quality and durability.
“We strive to build the best product available to the industry, not only in the aesthetics but also the safety aspect and the longevity aspect,” he says. “We want to make sure this thing lasts a long time and withstands the tortures of the road.”
“We strive to build the best product available to the industry, not only in the aesthetics but also the safety aspect and the longevity aspect.” – Ed Grech
At the end of the day, Reagan says his work revolves around finding ways to make things easier for operators. A shuttle is a complex machine, so Reagan spends a lot of time figuring out how to simplify that complexity to ensure that the ownership experience is smooth and seamless. Among these solutions is the standardization of certain parts in Grech vehicles, such as the cage structure, windows, entry doors, bumpers, and other elements.
“Standardizing everything makes a huge difference on production, purchasing, inventory, and quality control,” he says. “It really makes the end product much better. Not only does it streamline the production process, but also lets the customer easily find replacement parts later on.”
Reagan’s eye for quality and design is heavily influenced by his passion for cars. Outside of Grech Motors, Reagan attends plenty of car shows and can usually be found working on personal vehicle projects.
“I’m very meticulous about how I put everything together, and that carries over into what I do at Grech,” he says. This love of cars is something Reagan shares with Ed Grech. Automotive design influences can be seen all over their work, from their production facility to the exterior look of their shuttles. This is evident on Grech’s patented side skirts and front viewing window, which give the buses sleek lines and curves usually seen on luxury sports cars.
“I always want to be unique and make sure we’re doingthings nobody else is doing.” – Luis Alvarez, Production Manager of Grech Motors
Design ideas from the automotive world also seep into Grech Motors’ interiors, which are the realm of Production Manager Luis Alvarez. Like Grech and Reagan, Alvarez has had an intense interest in cars for as long as he could remember.
Although he’s in charge of the entire production process, interior design is where Alvarez says his enthusiasm and talents really lie, and much of his love for cars can be seen in the features found inside a Grech shuttle or Sprinter. He spends a lot of time studying high-end car manufacturers like Rolls-Royce and Ferrari to see what details will inspire him to incorporate into Grech vehicles.
“I always want to be unique and make sure we’re doing things nobody else is doing,” Alvarez says. “Ed and I talk every day and go back and forth with ideas, and he’ll tell me what his vision is and I’ll take it and figure out how to make it happen. Even if it’s something that’s never been done before, we figure it out. Ed taught me not to be afraid to try new things.”
Innovation Starts With Listening
Taking a cue from the company founder, Reagan and Alvarez attribute many design ideas to customer feedback. While Ed Grech’s leadership is the foundation of all Grech Motors designs, much of the improvements and innovations come directly from customers. According to the team, it’s this reception to new ideas that allows them to create vehicles that perfectly fit their clients’ needs and desires.
“I talk to everybody at the company, and I listen to what they have to say, especially the sales team because they’re the ones interacting with customers on a daily basis,” says Alvarez. “So when they tell me their customers are asking about a certain thing, or if we can change or add something in the vehicle, I pay attention to that.”
“I always start [my design ideas] by looking at what customers are talking about or asking us,” Reagan says. “All their comments are opportunities for us to do something new and improved.”
Moreover, Reagan and Alvarez work in a collaborative environment where design ideas come from everyone on the production team.
“Every day someone will tell me they have an idea for something, and we’ll explore it,” Reagan says. “I love getting input from everybody because product improvement happens from everybody working together.”
Alvarez agrees that creating a high-quality product is a team effort. Without the team, nothing happens, so it’s important to keep everyone motivated.
“One way to do that is to listen to everyone and let them know their ideas and suggestions are valuable to the company,” Alvarez says. “Their ideas drive improvements and new creations.”
Predicting the Future—By Creating It
When it comes to developing new ideas and innovations, Ed Grech says that the team takes no shortcuts because their success lies in their insistence to constantly be refining and changing things.
“There’s always room for improvement,” says Reagan. “No matter how good a vehicle gets, there’s always something that can be done better, and there are always new technologies emerging that we look to incorporate into our buses.”
Ed Grech, the creative force behind it all, says operators can expect more innovative designs and vehicles that will redefine and raise the standards of luxury buses. [CD0917]