HomeManufacturingBusiness As Usual for Collins Bus Customers, Says Forest River

Business As Usual for Collins Bus Customers, Says Forest River

Following the acquisition of Collins Bus from REV Group last month, School Transportation News spoke with Forest River on what the transaction means to the bus industry and Collins customers.

David Wright, president of Forest River, said there is no intention of relocating or moving Collins Bus from South Hutchinson, Kansas. “We love the team that’s there and the team that [General Manager] Bryce Pfister and his management team have put together,” Wright said. “It’s got a great workforce, stable, great product quality, great reputation, and so no intentions of moving it.”

David Wright, president of Forest River Commercial. (Linkedin)

Instead, he said Forest River wants to build upon the quality product and innovation Collins is known for. In terms of how the new Collins dealer network will look, Wright said Pfister and his team will make that call.

“We’re not coming in with, ‘Okay, now that its Forest River that owns it, you have to change this, this and this,” Wright added. “But that being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some dealer changes just because there’s not enough supply to keep all the dealers content with what they need. But again, [there is] nothing preconceived or anything like that.”

Wright noted that he’s providing Pfister and his team with some management and insight from the Forest River perspective, but it’s ultimately up to them to make the decisions on which direction to take.

Meanwhile, Collins customers should expect the same warranty, product and body make up. Wright said that Forest River continuously strives for improvement across its complete portfolio of brands, but overall, Collins remains the same product, constructed the same way, with “minimally to no operational or product changes at all,” he said.

Collins Bus interested Forest River because “it’s the best [Type A school bus] brand that’s out there,” Wright said, noting the obvious bias. “We’ve always had our eyes on it. Since we bought the shuttle bus brands [from REV Group] back in 2020. But the timing wasn’t right for both companies, [and] it is now. …Obviously, very innovative, is one of the original Type A manufacturers, so very stable, great reputation, great reputation product and a big thing was a very stable workforce.”

The Type A chassis shortage was one reason that REV Group cited for selling Collins Bus and winding down its transit operations. Over time, Wright said Forest River can unlock access to a greater number of chassis.

“It’s not like we’ve got some magic recipe or secret sauce for getting them, but I think because of our size and an ongoing, rolling relationship with Ford and GM and Stellantis, that hopefully over time we can have more consistency to chassis availability and more numbers.”

He added Forest River needs to continue to build its relationships with the chassis manufacturers. The most obvious way to accomplish this is by purchasing more chassis each year from these companies.

As for the future of the electric Collins Ford E-Transit school bus as well as other alternative fuels, Wright said the current focus is on market demands and working with factory chassis instead of aftermarket electric upfitters.

Related: Forest River Acquires Collins Bus
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Wright also commented on the importance of a stable workforce, which he accredited to Collins as an existing strength. He added that Forest River will provide workforce assistance, whether that means growing the employee base, increasing access to chassis, or helping with supply chain disruptions, as long as they don’t disrupt Collins’ existing processes.

“We didn’t want to change the secret sauce that they have. We just thought it was an awesome company,” he said, adding that Collins was the best brand to grow Forest River’s Type A business.

For now, Wright said there are no plans to bring back Starcraft school bus models. Additionally, there are no plans or intentions to build bigger buses at this time. Previously, Starcraft partnered with Creative Bus Sales, now known as Model1, to develop a Type C school bus.

Going forward, Wright said Forest River is focused on growing its market share.

“We think that the Type A is a great growth opportunity for us because we weren’t in it a month ago. But our path to that we believe is helping Collins, maybe with capital and chassis, things like that, that Forest River can help accelerate their growth and what they were already we’re doing,” he concluded. “We’re not looking to change anything. … Just help them succeed better at what they already were doing.”

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