Sell the Engine as a Powerful Advantage
By Ken Haverkate, Holland Bus Company
Last year 35 percent of Holland Bus Company’s total school bus sales were propane. Although we were pretty happy with that number, we knew the market in Michigan was interested enough in diesel alternatives that we could do a lot more.
The Ford 6.8L V10 engine and ROUSH CleanTech fuel system have been the major differentiator for us with propane, so when Blue Bird and ROUSH CleanTech introduced the new Blue Bird Gasoline Vision with the same engine, we had an opportunity to even further differentiate ourselves from IC and Thomas.
Ford has produced more than 1.3 million of these engines, making it one of the most prevalent commercial-duty engines on the market. All the Blue Bird propane buses sold last year only accounted for about 2 percent of Ford’s annual production. The rest make their way into Ford branded commercial-duty vehicles.
This year, our dealership has sold almost exclusively Ford and ROUSH-equipped Blue Bird buses. In fact, one of our school bus specialists this year has sold almost 80 percent of his total buses with a Ford 6.8L V10 engine under the hood.
When we meet with school districts in Michigan to talk about diesel buses, they know and we know that diesel engine is the exact same as what our competition is selling. When we offer propane or gasoline, we’re promoting a high-volume OEM powertrain, an excellent engineered alternative fuel system, and the best bus chassis and body on the market.
Gasoline has been an excellent addition to the product lineup, providing benefits that accompany the propane product very well. If the district has reservations about the range or fuel availability for propane, we present the gasoline option as a secondary alternative to expensive diesel. Blue Bird is the only major school bus manufacturer offering a Type C gasoline- and propane-powered school bus.
One of our most successful sales tactics is offering propane demo buses for the district reps to view and borrow. We find you can’t sell what you don’t show, so we keep anywhere from five to 10 propane-fueled demo buses in stock.
At Holland Bus Company, we see the trend continuing away from diesel and toward great alternatives like propane and gasoline. Whether you’re one of the dealers out there that’s been pushing propane since the beginning, or if you’re just now starting to talk to your customers about it, now is the time to make the push and get your school districts thinking about less expensive alternatives to diesel.