While Van Hool will be moving all production of motorcoaches to its Macedonia facility, North American production has been sourced in the Macedonia facility since 2014 which should result in a seamless transition for ABC and its customers allowing work to continue in a “business as usual” environment.  -  Photo: Van Hool

While Van Hool will be moving all production of motorcoaches to its Macedonia facility, North American production has been sourced in the Macedonia facility since 2014 which should result in a seamless transition for ABC and its customers allowing work to continue in a “business as usual” environment.

Photo: Van Hool

In a statement, Van Hool reiterated that it remains steadfast in its pursuit of a sustainable future despite recent challenges, with Co-CEO Marc Zwaaneveld holding firm to the March 31 target date to provide an outcome in some form that ensures the preservation of as many activities and jobs at Van Hool as possible.

Founded in 1947, Van Hool is a Belgian independent manufacturer of buses, coaches, and industrial vehicles headquartered in Koningshooikt. The majority of production is destined for Europe and North America.

Van Hool employs over 4,100 staff worldwide, with the majority located in production facilities in Koningshooikt (Belgium) and Skopje (North Macedonia).

For more than 35 years, Van Hool and ABC Companies have partnered to bring European coaches to the U.S. market, which are supported by ABC’s distribution, sales, parts, and service network.

On March 11, the Van Hool Recovery Plan was presented during a Special Works Council to employee representatives, and all employees were informed. The plan, necessary due to the exceptional situation the company finds itself in, aims to secure a future for Van Hool.

In the subsequent period, discussions were held with various stakeholders, including banks, government agencies, shareholders, the board of directors, unions, and potential investors.

Continuing to Move Ahead

The Van Hool Recovery Plan, drafted taking into account the company's situation, proved to be a challenging yet feasible plan and was well received by these stakeholders. The goal was to attract new capital and strengthen the company's financial foundation.

However, an inheritance dispute between shareholders and the Van Hool family has complicated the planned actions. Despite deadlines and efforts, a swift resolution to the dispute has proved unattainable, according to company officials. Consequently, the confidence of other stakeholders in bolstering Van Hool's equity further diminished.

Van Hool clearly states the question of whether banks would be willing to provide equity is therefore largely irrelevant. Based on these developments, it must be acknowledged that the implementation of the Van Hool Recovery Plan in a business continuity situation is no longer viable.

With the short and impending deadline of March 31 for approval of the Van Hool Recovery Plan, the company had already initiated a parallel track to explore alternative scenarios. This included discussions with potential acquirers to explore a possible restart, with attention to all stakeholders, particularly the employees.

"We absolutely refuse to give up and continue to make maximum efforts to find a solution by the end of March," said Marc Zwaaneveld, co-CEO at Van Hool. "We believe that a solution is still achievable, but we need the maximum support from all involved parties. Let's work together and remain calm to make a sustainable future possible."

ABC Companies’ Response

Upon Van Hool’s March 11 announcement, ABC’s CEO Roman Cornell sent a letter to customers stating the company and Cornell family fully supported Van Hool’s decision to further streamline manufacturing capabilities to best serve its global market and customers and “will be working closely with the leadership at Van Hool to ensure a seamless transition.”

The company added that while production for global markets will be shifting to the Macedonia facility, many key operations will remain at the Koningshooikt location.

“We are confident this restructuring will further enhance Van Hool’s capabilities and service to their global markets,” said Cornell. “We look forward to our continued partnership with Van Hool and a truly bright future.”

Upon the recent announcement, ABC Companies reiterated its customers remain a top priority as Van Hool addresses financial challenges.

In a statement to the media, ABC officials highlighted several points:

  • There is no change in the Van Hool production schedule as they continue to work at full capacity for 2024. Buses and parts continue to be shipped as planned and orders for all motorcoaches, including electric and motorcoach parts, are being received as normal.
  • While Van Hool will be moving all production of motorcoaches to its Macedonia facility, North American production has been sourced in the Macedonia facility since 2014 which should result in a seamless transition for ABC and its customers allowing work to continue in a “business as usual” environment.
  • North America and ABC Companies continues to be a top priority for Van Hool and remains a bright spot in their portfolio and future plans.
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