This year has proven to be quite newsworthy for REV Group. In January, the company announced its IPO on the New York Stock Exchange, and then in subsequent months, announced the acquisition of Midwest Automotive Designs. Most recently, the company announced its new service partnership with Ryder System Inc., which enables REV to leverage the company’s extensive network to deliver nationwide vehicle maintenance services to the customers of REV Bus Brands, which include Collins, Champion, ElDorado, ENC, Federal, Goshen, Krystal, and World Trans.
The new partnership will enable REV to offer its dealers and their customers access to a superior level of preventive and on-demand maintenance solutions at hundreds of Ryder service locations throughout the U.S., according to the company. This will supplement REV’s existing network of dealer service centers and its growing list of REV Technical Centers.
Under the Ryder SelectCare service agreement, REV bus customers will have access to two levels of maintenance service — SelectCare Preventive Maintenance and SelectCare On-Demand Maintenance. The preventive maintenance option gives REV bus customers access to the same scheduled maintenance programs utilized by large fleets to control costs and maximize uptime. The on-demand option gives REV customers access to Ryder service centers nationwide, so help is available when and where needed.
METRO Magazine Executive Editor, Janna Starcic interviewed REV Bus Group President John Walsh to find out how the deal benefits the company, its dealers and customers.
What prompted the move to partner with Ryder?
REV has 19 manufacturing facilities around the country. We’re based in Milwaukee corporately, but we’re also based in Miami where Ryder is located. We’ve had a history with them in the past. We approached them to work with REV to start out in our bus division. While we have the strongest group of dealerships in the country for buses with REV, the problem is, there isn’t a bus company in every town. In a lot of cases, buses get sold by a dealership group and the sales part of the equation is on more of a regional basis, but service is local.
For example, a dealership will sell a bus 150 miles away from their home base, and when the customer needs preventative maintenance done and they’re not capable of doing it themselves, they find themselves searching for facilities to do it. So instead of them going to a Ford or GM dealer or Joe’s garage, we would rather them go to a certified REV location that has technicians trained on our products.
We started the conversation with Ryder around that theme and they were more than happy to do an exclusive agreement with us and our products because they put the demand out in the industry as well.
I want to make it very clear that our dealers do a fantastic job; they just can’t be in every small town to provide warranty and preventative maintenance. That’s what really spurred us to do what we did with Ryder.
The appeal to us is the fact that they have 450 locations nationwide, and they have 6,000 trained ASE-certified technicians. Ryder has a system in place that allows fleet customers to sign up for a program to help them maintain their equipment and provide them with reporting functions that they just cannot do on their own.
Are there certain regions that are now covered?
We’re positioning these facilities in areas where we don’t have a REV dealership. REV Bus has about 150 dealers nationwide, which is industry-leading and very robust. REV Bus customers have a place to go that’s nearby that has the REV banner next to a Ryder banner and that gives a lot of people comfort to know they have a place to get their vehicle serviced.
The whole idea is, if our vehicles get serviced properly, it costs less to operate them and they continue to be safer on the road and that’s really been our big push. Total cost of ownership and safety — that’s really what this program helps REV get to.
What’s involved with the training?
REV is doing the training on a regional basis with Ryder. That’s working out really well for both of us. The Ryder facilities are already up and running and are already certified and ready to go.
REV and Ryder have worked a long time to get this set up. We didn’t launch this as soon as we wanted to because we wanted to get all those systems and the training in place. The other part of the training that we did outside of the technician itself is we trained our dealers; we’ve sent them to Atlanta to train on Ryder’s call center system. So when a call comes in, they know how to handle that call for the customer and how to direct them. All of that is handled online, it’s very easy for the customer to use. So we’ve partnered the dealers in with this program as well, which has been very positive.
Are there certain REV standards, with regards to technology or tools used?
Part of what we’ve done with Ryder is an extensive training program on our products and on the components that go into our buses. For example, when we put an air conditioning unit into a bus, it typically comes from ACC Climate Control or ACT, so those facilities are now trained to work on those particular systems. They are trained to do warranty work, process warranty, and do preventative maintenance. It’s actually helped our component partners, such as manufacturers of air conditioners or wheelchair lifts, because, typically, a customer would struggle to find a location to have those components of the buses serviced. All Ryder locations are trained, not only on chassis maintenance, which is their forte, but also A/C, wheelchair lifts, seats, electrical, and many other sub-components. And as we add new components and new technologies, they are brought up to speed immediately on those items and systems.
Discuss any cost savings related to this move?
REV feels strongly we are going to see a lot of cost savings and one of the reasons why is Ryder’s labor rates are very competitive for the customer, not to mention the repair will be done right and in a professional manner. Also, we’ll be able to evaluate the total cost of ownership with the customers, because they will register with their VIN numbers, so we’ll be able to track how well the vehicle is doing for them over the life of the vehicle.
There are two types of programs REV/Ryder is offering to customers: ‘On-Demand’ Program and ‘Preventative Maintenance’ Program. The difference is the customer would register with Ryder, then set up an account with Ryder at that point, and then, that customer can go to any Ryder location ‘On Demand.’ Whenever a customer has a service situation no matter where the vehicle is located, you can just arrive at a Ryder location and they will be there ready to assist and make the necessary repairs. The ‘Preventative Maintenance’ program is set up on monthly intervals and the customer will come in at designated times each year to have PMs done.
What’s on the horizon for REV?
REV is certainly not a company that is satisfied with the status quo. REV is working on new products for ENC (Formerly ElDorado National-California), which is our heavy-duty transit bus, and you are going to see a larger presence with REV and ENC into the fixed-route transit bus industry. ENC has superior products, including an all 304 stainless steel bus, which is completely ‘rust proof’ for our customers with corrosion issues. There is currently a lot of consolidation going on with our shuttle bus brands, so we’re very excited about those opportunities. Our legacy brands with ElDorado, Champion, and Goshen remain very strong in the industry, and now, we have just introduced the all-new World Trans product, which is the first-ever high-floor shuttle bus to be crash-tested and passed FMVSS 214, which makes this the safest bus on the road today. Collins, our school bus manufacturer, just announced the ‘first-ever low-floor’ school bus with a ramp and no steps. We just really continue to innovate at REV, that’s what we’re all about is innovation and bringing new products to the market.
What is REV’s biggest challenge and how are you trying to overcome it?
The biggest challenge, or should I say ‘opportunity,’ is REV continues to bring to the market more than just manufacturing of buses. At REV, we’re offering services that go along with those products. For instance, we offer the REV/Ryder Program, an online parts program for all of REV’s buses and chassis, REV Financial Services for our Dealer Network, Retail REV financing for customers, and REV Rental for those customers with short-term bus needs, and finally REV Insurance.
We’re trying to be more than just a manufacturer. And when you begin to insert yourself into the market in that manner, it’s a big change. So, I wouldn’t say it’s a challenge but more of an opportunity. The customer is looking for more of an overall program from manufacturers like REV.