New Flyer's Soubry Embraces Company's Bold Future

Posted on September 19, 2013 by Alex Roman, Managing Editor

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Over the last five years, New Flyer has worked to increase efficiencies at its manufacturing plants.
Over the last five years, New Flyer has worked to increase efficiencies at its manufacturing plants.

What’s the thinking for keeping the NABI name?

Well, the due diligence process was delicate because we were direct competitors, so for us to be able to come out of the blocks with a plan was difficult. Our view was NABI has contracts, customers, bus designs and slots sold well into the future, so there is no need or urgency to go and change the buses, names or any of that stuff.

NABI has 7,500 buses on the road with customers who have bought and operated that brand for years, but who knows what will go in the future. We think they have a great management team. Jim Marcotuli, who was brought in by Cerberus and was at NABI a little over four years, did a wonderful job bringing shell and structure capability to the U.S., investing in the facility, and getting it profitable in both its bus and parts businesses. We are not in any rush to have to go and hurry things up, and will take the time to study what the customers think, how the products perform and so forth. Who knows, we may be here 20 years from now with the NABI name still continuing.

How will the purchase of NABI benefit New Flyer in the marketplace?
In our space, every customer’s competition is different. Yes, they all play by the Federal Transit Administration’s rules of funding, bus life and all those things, but the process of selection and the types of RFPs are different. Our view is, we can look at every individual competition and see where we can be successful and add value to the customer. There will be cases where New Flyer will bid. There will be cases where NABI will bid. There may be cases where we put in multiple proposals at different value offerings or different price points to not only try and improve our chances to win, but also, give our customers a choice of how they want to solve their issues. So far, the feedback has been very positive from the customers.

In May, New Flyer made news with the unveiling of the MiDi™ bus. What prompted its development?
Around the same time we began working on the next generation of our heavy-duty transit bus, now called the Xcelsior, eventually rolling it out in 2008, we received a lot of feedback from the industry about a gap at the low end of the heavy-duty space and the high end of the cutaway space. There just wasn’t a reliable medium-duty product.

New Flyer then spent several hundred thousands of dollars doing preliminary work on the design of our own medium-duty bus. As part of that process, we decided to look around the world and see if there was a bus in that class or category that we could use as a jumping-off point to collaborate with another manufacturer. At that time, we came across Alexander Dennis’ E200 bus. It was narrower, lighter and just a different product than what we were building, and of course, they had already delivered 16,000 of that class of bus. We spent probably about eight months with Alexander Dennis trying to see if we could put together an economic or technological sharing relationship, and ultimately, we embarked on a joint venture.

We see the MiDi™ bus as one we can sell to both private and public customers. We see it able to be used in environments such as community shuttles, light transit service, airports and those kinds of things. We have eight prototypes now built that are all in some level or version of testing. The first chassis begins welding in October for the first real line entry of the bus in December. We by no means think this will replace the heavy-duty bus, but there is a niche there we believe has been underserved.

Taking on the MiDi™ has also allowed New Flyer to learn how to collaborate, how to work inside a joint venture, and again, learn best practices across yet another company from another country that has buses all over the world. Alexander Dennis is a real world-class company. I am really impressed with the way they do engineering. They have been a very good company to collaborate with, and it has been eye opening to see how they do business. This collaboration, I think, will make us a better company and also make Alexander Dennis a better company. I also think we have a winner in terms of a product that will satisfy a real niche that isn’t satisfied today.

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