Driving Transactions
Tuesday, July 23, 2024
Grech Motors Cover Art: Grech Motors’ newly reengineered EG40 at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Photography by Robert Custer.

If you’ve been noticing the Grech Motors name popping up again more and more in recent months, you’d be correct—not that the longtime builder and supporter ever left the industry it has called home for decades. Once among the industry’s biggest sponsors, Grech has again begun lending its support to association meetings across the country while sponsoring events like CD/NLA Show’s Keynote Address in 2022 and 2024. Grech has been keeping pace with trends that are impacting your business ... and theirs.

If anyone understands market dynamics and the rapidly changing appetites of your customers and his, it’s Grech Motors President and CEO Ed Grech. For more than 40 years, the CD Hall of Fame inductee has had a keen eye for designing and producing vehicles that are not only timely but timeless. When the company transitioned to producing larger vehicles, first buses then Mercedes-Benz Sprinter camper vans, the Grech team—Vice President AJ Thurber, Research & Development Director David Reagan, Production Manager Luis Alvarez, Regional Sales Managers Rene Martinez and Ned Johnson, and now General Sales Manager John Black—preserved the quality and innovation behind the brand.

The bus manufacturing sector, however, is still in a period of rightsizing. According to the American Bus Association Foundation’s Motorcoach Sales Report, which surveys the major motorcoach manufacturers in the US and Canada each quarter, bus sales have yet to return to 2019 levels, although they have largely been trending upward. And the reasons are complex: fewer bus companies exist, higher interest rates, loss of insurance carriers in many states, dearth of CDL drivers, access to equipment capital, changing wants and needs of customers, operators are keeping vehicles longer, and the list goes on.

Grech MotorsThe new EG40 debuts this month Business is always changing, but some trends just last longer than others. So why are we seeing more of Grech lately? Thurber recounts a recent conversation with operators at the show earlier this year.

“I had the chance to update the industry at the recent CD/NLA Show in Vegas about our plans and the chassis supply chain issues holding us back from resuming bus manufacturing,” he says. “We are continuing our bus manufacturing efforts to supply the industry with the highest quality shuttle buses. Even if we were producing at our previous capacity, the market has not fully recovered yet as many operators are still in the process of recovering coupled with current macro-economic challenges. However, it is crucial for everyone to understand that we remain committed to supporting the chauffeured transportation industry.”

Grech MotorsThe EG40 has heated, stainless steel luggage bays Some of Grech’s current popular models are its smaller builds—primarily the GM33 (built on the F600) and the GM28 (built on the E450). These powerhouse workhorses have always been among the brand’s bestsellers because of their durability and versatility. Their Mercedes-Benz Limo and Executive Sprinters also capture that sweet spot when an operator has fewer passengers or corporate travelers. But Thurber says there’s a new bus in the pipeline—and it’s their largest.

On the precipice of relaunching its flagship EG40, Thurber is excited to see the industry’s reaction to the completely re-engineered bus that can seat up to 43 passengers.

“One of the unique features of this new model is the stainless-steel underbelly luggage bays, something you would typically see on high-end coaches. The bays are also heated for winter use and can accommodate dozens of pieces of luggage,” says Thurber.

“You’ll also notice that there aren’t any handles—it’s totally seamless. The luggage bay doors are controlled by a pneumatic mechanism that can be opened individually or all at once. This bus has a stunning design and curb appeal,” he adds.

Scheduled for its first deliveries starting this month, two are already spoken for and will be Texas bound in the near future, heading to AJL International’s fleet in the Dallas metroplex area.

Grech will pack many of its customers’ favorite features into the EG40, such as their hand-stitched signature seating that was designed and built in house, sturdy overhead luggage racks, power outlets in every row, LED accent lighting, and AC units produced by Premier Products for comfort in any heat. Large frameless windows and a front viewing window make the EG40 as versatile as it is elegant, which is a necessity in an industry that is constantly exploring new segments and clients to serve.

With supply chain issues behind them, whether it was delayed chassis and parts or suppliers leaving the market, the Grech team has been patiently watching and waiting where the chauffeured transportation industry would lead. As new opportunities continue to emerge to replace those that are long gone—like lucrative employee shuttle work or other steady contacts—our industry is still finding its way through the weeds.

Grech Motors Grech also discovered new avenues and cut a path into the luxury RV market—a sector that was and is thriving, not to mention its enormous diversity of clients. In less than four years, Grech RV has disrupted the status quo, and has even gained significant market share over legacy manufacturers, according to Thurber.

“The RV segment provides Grech Motors with much needed diversity in our product offerings and market sectors,” says Thurber. “We’re benefiting from having the best quality Class B campers vans available to the market, and we’re continuing to take a lot of market share from our direct competitors such as in the Class B segment.”

He adds: “Right now, our production lines are 60 percent RV business, 40 percent bus business, and that’s the way we intend to stay going forward with diversification in the different market sectors.”

“... [It] is crucial for everyone to understand that we remain committed to supporting the chauffeured transportation industry.” – AJ Thurber, Vice President of Grech Motors
Thurber says the two segments couldn’t be more different.

“The RV world is just a significantly larger demographic. To put it into perspective, there are two major shows that we go to every year: one in Hershey, Pennsylvania, the other in Tampa, Florida. Those shows could have 80,000 paid attendees. It’s an entirely different market,” Thurber says.

Having access to that volume of customers just makes sense. Our cottage industry tends to covet relationships with their suppliers and often need them to be accessible 24/7 for warranty claims and middle-of-the-night problems, so they tend to buy multiple vehicles at a time and be repeat customers. On the other hand, RV customers might make a one-time purchase and keep that vehicle for many years, so Grech had to establish a network of dealers that would handle their products and provide that after-sales support.

“We are grateful for our success in the RV business. When every shuttle bus builder in the country stopped building for a couple of years, that market allowed us to stay, being adaptable, being versatile,” says Thurber. “There were a lot of people in the chauffeured transportation industry wondering if we were ever going to come back to the shows. We had to wait for the right timing, and the time is now.”   [CD0624]