Dealer Spotlight: Canyon State Bus Sales
Interviewee: John Barrington
Title: General Manager
Q. What are you doing that has made you successful with alternative fuels?
A. Like many dealers, our best-selling tool is demo buses. We’ve also found customer testimonials to be extremely valuable. We rely on the honesty of our current customers. For example, two of our biggest propane advocates, Mesa Public Schools and Kyrene School District, have helped us get more school districts on board with propane buses. When they are asked about propane, they tell it like it is and don’t sugarcoat anything.
Q. How do you introduce propane-fueled buses to prospective customers?
A. We have a lot of varied school districts in Arizona, from extreme rural districts to urban districts. Some of them are a more natural fit for propane. We do some initial screening based on the school district, and then let our research guide how we interact with the school district representatives and which products we talk about. In our first meeting, we can sense how receptive they are to alt fuels and where their level of knowledge is.
In other situations, we’ve had people approach us about alternative fuels based on seeing our ads or hearing about us at shows. This has proven to us that placing advertisements and having a show presence works!
Q. How are you positioning alt fuels in your area?
A. We’ve seen an interest in all the fuels across the board, and we’ve been very successful with propane. When we lay out the economics, propane is the leader by a long shot. We have propane customers on board with the fuel but are still hanging on to some diesel buses because of duty cycles. We’re hopeful to convert those customers to all propane when the time comes.
Our key to success is that we haven’t tried to oversell the benefits of propane to make the sale. Propane is great in certain markets, but not the best in all situations. We have districts that run daily trips of hundreds of miles that propane doesn’t work well for. We are always honest with our customers.
We’ve also seen some interest in compressed natural gas. CNG has gotten a lot of the public’s attention, but folks still have many questions. We had one school district rep who was very gung-ho on CNG, so they were going to go with CNG one way or the other. That was our first CNG sale.
Q. Is there any advice you’d like to give to other dealers?
A. I would say don’t be afraid to embrace alternative fuels and more importantly, to believe in the product. Get out there and do the research. You will find customers in your market who will benefit from alt fuels. At the end of the day, it’s nice to have all the tools in the toolbox, so you can tailor a solution to what your customers need, not force them to go with one fuel.