December 2011

BCI Opens Chinese Facility, Focuses on North American Growth

by Alex Roman, Managing Editor

In May, Australia-based Bus and Coach International (BCI) celebrated the opening of its new state-of-the art facility in China with an event that included company staff and more than 150 invited guests from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the U.S., including customers, vendor partners, press, and both Australian and Chinese dignitaries.

Modern, safe and environmentally friendly, the new facility, located in Xiamen's Haicang special economic zone, spans more than one million square feet and is fully ISO 9001-compliant. BCI and its joint venture partner Fengtai invested more than $62 million in the innovative facility, which only produces vehicles for export from Xiamen's special economic zone.

In addition to building vehicles for the Australian and New Zealand markets, manufacturing for the recently launched BCI America subsidiary, as well as emerging markets, including the Middle East and Asia, will also take place in Xiamen.

"The company has become, in the last 20 years, truly an international company," says Larry Brennan, president of BCI America. "It's a global brand that has Australian roots and now a production facility in China, but we're really competing in various markets around the world."

In fact, sales outside of home markets Australia and New Zealand are spearheaded from BCI America's Southern California offices by Sharad Agarwal, global sales director for BCI. Agarwal, who just returned from meeting with prospective customers at the World Bus Expo in Belgium, points out "we are now marketing to and designing product for customers in the Middle East, Asia, and Central and South America."

Brennan adds that the new BCI America is not to be confused with the company that existed a few years ago and carried the BCI name. The owners of that Nevada-based company had struck a deal with BCI Founder Ron Nazzari in 2006 to use the BCI name on buses built by Chinese manufacturers Wuxi Anyuan and Bonluck Bus in 2007, resulting in the Falcon 45 bus, which was designed and manufactured by those Chinese manufacturers and bore a Chinese Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).

Because that American company almost immediately elected to simply work directly with those Chinese manufacturers, BCI ended up having no involvement in, and could provide no support for, the Falcon 45 sold by the company, which is subsequently no longer in operation.

Vehicle production
BCI believes that its new facility will help it achieve key strategic objectives and create better value for its customers.

The company's manufacturing processes are overseen by a dedicated team of quality control professionals, including engineers educated, trained and experienced in each specific geographic area into which BCI markets its products. Production dedicated to North America is overseen by a team of engineers with decades of experience manufacturing vehicles to meet U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and other applicable U.S. and Canadian laws and regulations. This team is led by Andrew Fung, who has two decades of coachbuilding experience with major North American manufacturers and distributors. As executive VP, Fung oversees a production, quality assurance and customer care team that also includes Jacques Gagne, an engineer with four decades of motorcoach experience.

While the vehicles are being built in China and will have Australian VINs, BCI has created North American-only models that will use stainless steel construction, and in the U.S., will eventually meet Buy America requirements. To do so, BCI plans on sending its vehicles to Pennsylvania for Altoona testing, beginning with its prototype Explorer 45, following the United Motorcoach Association's (UMA) Motorcoach Expo in February 2012 and will open a U.S.-based final assembly location. It plans to have completed both of these tasks by the fourth quarter of 2012, according to Brennan.

"We're very close to settling on a location for a U.S. facility," he says. "We are already very close to meeting the 60 percent U.S. content requirement with our Cummins engines, Allison transmissions and other componentry, even without using American stainless steel, which we plan to do, as well as U.S.-sourced seats and glass. To facilitate final assembly in the U.S., we will ship the vehicle componentry manufactured in Xiamen in kits designed to facilitate final assembly."

Originally formed in 1991, BCI's current market share places it in the top two or three manufacturers in both the Australian and New Zealand markets. Brennan sees BCI's international network as well as BCI America's entrance to the market as a positive for all of its subsidiaries worldwide.

"While we may be smaller than our more established competitors, our size enables us to be very responsive to market and customer demands and to be agile enough to execute those responses very quickly," he says. "We have the ability to design, for example, units for specific applications customers may have, and then, benefit from having that platform in service for our other markets."

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