Despite what he referred to as the softest quarter of the fiscal year, Blue Bird President and CEO Phil Horlock reported a 4-percent increase in total net sales to reaffirm full-year guidance of expected fiscal-year net sales between $980 million and $1 billion.
Last year, Blue Bird reported $932 million in net sales. The company’s FY 2017 guidance indicates Adjusted EBITDA of $72 to $76, compared to $72 last year. Adjusted Free Cash Flow is expected to be $38 to $42, compared to $33 for FY 2016.
Horlock said during an earnings call Thursday that unit sales are on track to increase by 6 to 8 percent due largely to an increasing demand for alternative fuel buses.
First-quarter net sales were up $5.3 million to $136.7 million, with bus sales responsible for $122.4 million, an increase of $3.9 million. Net part sales for the first quarter were up $1.4 million to $14.3 million. But gross profit came in at $18.2 million, down $600,000 from last year.
Blue Bird sold 1,493 buses, a 6-percent increase over Q1 2016, with alternative-fuel buses accounting for 23 percent of total bus sales. He added on Thursday that year-to-date orders of the company’s propane-powered buses are up 29 percent over last year.
The company is on track to sell over 3,000 total alternative-fuel buses this year, which include the Vision Propane, the new Vision CNG that launched last summer, and the All-American CNG. Blue Bird cited statistics from R.L. Polk that it holds more than 80 percent market share of the school bus alternative-fuel registrations since FY 2010.
Blue Bird announced last month it received a $4.4-million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop a zero-emissions, electric-powered school bus that could fund school districts through Vehicle-to-Grid technology.
Blue Bird did report a first quarter loss of $8.4 million from continuing operations, down $6.1 million from last year.
The company attributed the decline mostly to customer orders and engineering expenses.