ABC Companies, VDL Groep Representatives Share Plans Involving The Van Hool Motorcoach Brand

By Harrell Kerkhoff,Busline Magazine Editor

Roman Cornell

Representatives of ABC Companies and the VDL Groep recently hosted an industry update call with customers and members of the trade press to discuss the next chapter of the Van Hool motorcoach brand — including the brand’s new ownership and ABC Companies’ continuing role as its North American distributor. Participants of the call included ABC Companies CEO Roman Cornell and VDL Groep Senior Vice President Rémi Henkemans.

In June, the acquisition of the Van Hool motorcoach division by the VDL Groep was announced, coupled with a 10-year exclusive distribution agreement between VDL and ABC Companies involving the U.S. and Canadian markets.

The acquisition by VDL, an international industrial family business founded in 1953 and headquartered in the Netherlands, has marked a significant step toward diversifying and enhancing Van Hool production capabilities and customer offerings, according to ABC Companies, adding: “With about 15,000 employees and a presence in 19 countries, VDL Groep brings vast experience, capabilities and stability to the motorcoach market. The Van Hool brand and its current models will join the existing VDL portfolio of motorcoach and transit/low-floor bus offerings.”

According to Cornell during the call, ABC Companies has had a continuous North American distribution agreement involving Van Hool motorcoaches since 1987. During that time, ABC has sold and put into service over 12,000 new Van Hool motorcoaches across the United States and Canada.

“The unique partnership between ABC Companies and Van Hool has resulted in the development of products and services specific to the U.S. and Canadian markets and has involved a true customer-driven solution for the motorcoach industry,” Cornell said. “These motorcoaches have evolved across multiple models, sizes and designs over the years; and have been powered by clean diesel all the way to a full battery-electric powertrain.

“We have now begun work with the VDL Groep, a highly successful family-owned operation comprised of over 100 operating companies. VDL develops and produces a wide variety of industrial products, from parts to advanced finished products. Activities can be summarized under the ‘five worlds of VDL’ — Hightech, Mobility, Energy, Infratech and Foodtech.”

Rémi Henkemans

He added VDL Groep’s established automotive and commercial vehicle production capabilities and expertise will ensure quick integration with current Van Hool motorcoach production in North Macedonia, which is where Van Hool coaches destined for the U.S. and Canadian markets are produced.

“VDL operates several state-of-the-art production facilities. Its most recent location, in Roeselare, Belgium, is a carbon neutral facility producing battery-electric low-floor transit buses for Europe. The VDL Groep also manufactures high tech and specialty-production machinery used to produce semiconductor chips, battery packs and fuel cells. Such strength in technology will allow for added acceleration of innovation involving the Van Hool brand. VDL is a proven global leader, with proven capabilities for significant growth.”

Henkemans also spoke during the call, stating that VDL Groep representatives are delighted to have acquired the Van Hool brand, which will strengthen its position as a bus and motorcoach manufacturer.

“We’ve acquired the intellectual property, design rights, software, equipment and machines involving Van Hool as well as the factory in North Macedonia,” Henkemans said. “We recognize the robust foundation and quality that Van Hool has brought to market over the years. The Van Hool acquisition provides a strong complement to our entire product portfolio, allowing for greater expansion of products and distribution to reach more global markets. That includes great access to the large North American market through our new distribution partner which is ABC Companies.

“Having a strong distribution network in place is key for us to grow our expanded portfolio. The historic distribution strength of ABC Companies makes it possible for VDL Groep to further develop its international activities.”

Cornell added: “ABC Companies is excited about the future. That includes what VDL Groep will bring to the table, such as accelerating Van Hool’s strength as a brand.”

Moving forward, Cornell said representatives at ABC Companies and VDL Groep are focused on maintaining a seamless transition so that all operations remain at the highest level. That includes no disruptions in the current 24/7 technical service support for customers. The Van Hool warranty will also remain in place for motorcoaches sold by ABC into the U.S. and Canadian markets.

“The transition is focused on maintaining business as usual as well as accelerating customer input and product innovation,” Cornell said.

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