Late 2016 marks five years since CH Bus Sales began selling Temsa coaches in North America. This is noteworthy for at least three different reasons. One reason is that they are the only company I can think of that entered the market by providing an integral coach with a length that none of the other bus manufacturers offered at that time. The second reason is that CH Bus Sales has already gone a long way towards building a national dealer, parts and support organization – something that has not happened in this industry in decades. The third reason is that they have effectively changed the industry into thinking of four major builders.
While CH Bus Sales today offers three different lengths of integral coaches, their initial start in North America came because of a need for shorter coaches. Three different manufacturers introduced 40-foot coaches in the late 1960s. Ten years later, the interest in 35-foot coaches had declined substantially. GM gave up building 35-foot coaches in 1978. Due at least in part to a major order, MCI kept 35-foot coaches in production until 1980. During the next 23 years there were five different attempts by four different manufacturers to bring 35-foot or shorter coaches back on the market. All of them discontinued short coaches because of the limited number of sales. By 2004 more than 90 percent of new coaches sold were 45-foot long and the remaining less than 10 percent were 40 feet long.
From 2003 to 2008 new 35-foot integral coaches were not available on the U.S. market. Many bus operators purchased body-on-chassis buses for smaller groups. They did well for certain trips, particularly local trips without luggage. However, many bus operators were looking for a 35-foot coach that could carry luggage and provide the same features as the big coaches on longer trips.
The answer came from an unexpected source. While most bus operators in the United States had moved up to 45-foot coaches, European operators continued to run coaches of different sizes. Some European bus models were available in as many as four different lengths. There were probably several different reasons for this. Fuel was more expensive in Europe so there were some real operational cost savings with a smaller coach. Narrower streets also made smaller coaches more practical. In addition, the shorter coaches simply are more appropriate for smaller groups.
Seeing this need for shorter coaches in the United States, Temsa from Turkey decided to step in. One of their major advantages is that Temsa had many years of experience building smaller heavy-duty buses for the European market. With so many narrow streets in Turkey and other European cities, small heavy-duty buses have become popular in many areas as the vehicle of choice. What their engineers did was to take this experience and expertise in small buses and create a heavy-duty, integral small coach for the American market.
Known as the TS-35, this 35-foot coach showed up on this side of the Atlantic in 2008 and became the first 35-foot coach on the market in years. It was built with American components that were easily sourced and serviced. With air ride suspension, underfloor luggage compartments, parcel racks and reading lights it could do everything the big coaches could. With a length of only 35 feet, it was ideal for smaller groups while also being more economical to buy and operate.
Following three years of sales in the United States, a strange thing happened. The other manufacturers who had previously offered short coaches on the U.S. market in recent years generally decided to discontinue this product after about three years. Temsa went in the other direction and not only decided to continue building the 35-foot American coach but to expand to a larger footprint in the areas of sales, support and service.
It was not until September of 2011 when the TS 35 coach really gained momentum. This is when CH Bus Sales was appointed the exclusive distributor. As it turned out, the timing was opportune since several highly qualified people with coach sales experience became available to join the staff because of a change elsewhere. The initial staff included Michael Haggerty as chairman, Bob Foley was president and CEO, Duane Geiger came on board as executive vice president, Tim Vaught became the vice president of sales/services for the south region and product/service development, Tony Mongiovi stepped in as vice president of sales/services for the Northeast region and Marv Borntrager became director of parts, warranty and technical services. This highly qualified staff allowed the new company to get off with a running start.
By the following month of October, the company started moving ahead in several areas. The first of the Temsa TS-35 coaches with Cummins/Allison drivetrains arrived. An administrative office for the company was set up in Faribault, Minnesota. To support Temsa owners, a parts warehouse was organized in Las Vegas and a 24/7 technical call-in center was established.
Before the end of the year the company made several other steps forward. A new facility was opened in Orlando to handle new coach deliveries, pre-delivery inspections and customer service. The sales staff was expanded with the addition of Randy Kolesar in California and Randy Angell in Minnesota. At this same time the company name was changed from CH Trading Company to the more appropriate CH Bus Sales, Inc. A total of 20 new coaches were delivered in the fourth quarter of 2011.
2012 was the first full year of being the Temsa distributor for CH Bus Sales. The momentum started in late 2011 continued into the following year. Meeting customer requests for financing, the new Coach Finance Group, LLC was started and in operation by the summer. It began offering Installment Sales financing, Terminal Rental Adjustment Clause (TRAC) lease financing and Fair Market Value (FMV) lease agreements to finance vehicles. Tim Guldin joined CH Bus Sales in the summer and became the vice president of sales for the Southeast region and the parts division.
Due to customer requests for an even smaller coach, CH Bus Sales introduced the new 30-foot TS-30 in December of 2012. Like its older sibling, the TS-30 was based on Temsa’s small bus experience and expertise but re-engineered for the American market. Matching the 35-foot TS-35 coach, it offered heavy-duty integral construction and provided the same amenities as the big coaches but was more economical to operate and more appealing to smaller groups. More than 100 TS-35 coaches were delivered in 2012.
In the spring of 2013, CH Bus Sales improved parts support by hiring a parts manager. In November of that year the company integrated a dealer management software system. Later, the new CH Bus Sales (Canada) Inc. was created to extend bus sales into Canada.
June of 2013 saw the start of the Field Technician program where customer support was increased with mobile field techs and their vehicles being assigned to individual territories. John Fountain was assigned to the Northeast region and other technicians got started at later dates.
2014 turned out to be a busy year for CH Bus Sales. In April, the new Dallas-Fort Worth location opened. It was a full-service facility offering new coach sales, used coach sales, a stock of parts, coach deliveries as well as maintenance, collision repair and service support. At that same time the TS-35 was certified with Canada’s DOT, opening the door for sales into Canada.
CH Bus Sales took a step forward in June of 2014 by hiring Michaela Grundman as the new marketing manager. Shortly afterwards, the Distributor Agreement with Temsa was extended in regard to both date and product line. Roy Furo was hired as the account executive for upper New York and the New England territory. Furo had previously served with another bus manufacturer in that same territory. August of 2014 saw the creation of CH Bus Holdings, LLC. This brought the sales operation and the financing operation together under a common holding company.
Fall of 2014 saw the introduction of the new 45-foot TS-45 model. Several customers were so pleased with the 35-foot TS-35 and the 30-foot TS-30 Temsa models that they began asking for a longer 45-foot model. This required almost two years of work while the American coach operators met with the Temsa management and engineers to develop a 45-foot coach specifically geared to the American market. Temsa even created a prototype and invited several American operators to the factory to get their suggestions on it.
A lease for property in New Jersey was signed in the fall of 2015. Located not far from New York City, this new facility will support Temsa owners in the Northeast and is scheduled to open late in 2016. March of 2016 saw the 500th TS-35 coach delivered. Anderson Coach & Travel in Pennsylvania was the new owner.
With increasing requests from customers for smaller buses, CH Bus Sales is now able to offer REV Products, specifically the Krystal and Federal cutaway models. This arrangement allows bus operators to purchase their body-on-chassis buses from the same source as their integral coaches .
The Field Technician program that got started in June of 2013 has expanded considerably. John Fountain is in the Northeast, Michael Celentano works in the Southeast, James Kumar can be found in the West, Steve Blaschke is assigned to the Midwest and Elmer Holz works in the Midwest but also serves as the manager of product development and training. Four Temsa vehicles are now on the road, providing customer support and service. The warranty and technical department now has a staff of nine qualified individuals.
Several events are planned for late 2016. A new online parts ordering store will make it easier for customers to order parts. In September, a full-service facility opened in Burlingame, just south of San Francisco, in order to support the growing Temsa population in the Bay Area. A New Jersey facility, near Pinebrook, is expected to open prior to the end of the year.
CH Bus Sales has obviously accomplished a great deal in five years. They now have three different models in their product line. Sales have been extended into Canada. Temsa owners are being supported with new parts and service facilities as well as mobile technicians and the ability to order parts online. The company has certainly come a long way since late 2011.
Foley, president and CEO of CH Bus Sales, commented on this five-year anniversary. “We are proud of our accomplishments over these last five years and humbled by the support of the industry we have had so far. We understand the necessity to meet the changes and demands of this market and we look forward to continuing our growth with Temsa.”
Looking into the future, the company is working on increasing the number of service, parts and support locations to better serve the Temsa coach users.