by David Hubbard
Photos courtesy of Prevost
The 2019 Volvo 9700 on exhibit from Prevost during the United Motorcoach Association (UMA) Expo, January 6-10, 2019, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, will introduce several bold new features certain to change the game and open new doors. Together with the bright and airy interior design, the debut of adjustable seat tracks, a second entry door option and factory-installed lower mirrors promises a passenger experience – and a driver’s dream – as fresh and exciting as when Prevost first introduced this coach to North American operators in 2009. It is fitting to mark the 10th anniversary of its launch with the introduction of these exciting product enhancements. The 9700 model has been manufactured in Europe as well, but the model we distribute has always been manufactured in Mexico and is engineered specifically for the North American demands and DOT regulation. That is what makes our model unique.
Adjustable seat tracks increase flexibility Catering to customers’ needs is easier than ever with the installation of adjustable seat tracks for the first time in the Volvo 9700. Operators can now configure the plush and ample Amaya 800 seats to accommodate any specific number of passengers at any time. Unlike the standard 56-passenger configuration with the seats bolted in place, each seat now slides easily in its track – or can be removed entirely – to create more space and legroom.
“Rearranging the seats takes relatively little time, and is well worth the effort when you see passengers boarding the coach only to realize the cabin has been tailored precisely to the size of their group,” says Roy Furo, national sales manager, Volvo 9700. “This capability alone creates a perfect opportunity for the ultimate customer service. These new seat tracks are sure to become a strong selling point and increase revenue for operators who make use of this feature on their new Volvo 9700s.”
According to Helene Gamner, product line manager for the Volvo 9700, with every new feature or improvement, Prevost takes a closer look at where additional enhancements and upgrades may be needed. “In the case of the new seat tracks, we found we also gained an additional 10 millimeters to the gangway,” she says. “This slight adjustment is enough to ease the way for passengers passing through the cabin.”
A second entry is the Tour de Force The 2019 Volvo 9700 on exhibit at UMA Expo will showcase a second entry option. The entry was placed in the mid-section to allow the passengers to board and deboard the coach with greater efficiency. “This second door is an innovative and functional enhancement that evolved from a demand from the market,” says Gamner. “Operators and their customers were asking for this feature, but maybe not anticipating it would be available.” It is now. According to Furo the mere mention of a Volvo 9700 with a second door is creating a buzz.
“It is incredibly important for us to be able to offer this option to our customers at this time,” he says. “We believe this two-door model will be a boost to scheduled service and shuttle operators, particularly in their work with large corporations that provide high-end transportation as part of the employment package.” While Prevost says it developed the two-door shuttle coach with specific operators in mind, Gamner adds that the second door also has the interest of other markets. “The call is for a more expedient coach experience,” she says. “It seems more than a few business groups are wishing for a way to move their customers on and off a coach faster.”
The two-door model also has space to house a wheelchair lift beneath the stairwell. It can be fitted during production or installed as a later upgrade. According to Prevost, this is the only two-door coach available in North America with this capability. The onboard restroom with a two-tank freshwater flush system is conveniently situated in the mid-door stairwell.
Mirror placement is a choice The European-styled rearview mirrors mounted high on the front panel are the standout feature on the Volvo 9700. However, beginning with the 2019 model, customers may now request the lower North American–style mirrors. While the lower mirror placement was previously available only after-market, they can now be included in the production order. “Even for this North American version, we elected to keep the upper European-style mirrors standard as they are a distinct feature of the Volvo 9700 and more fuel efficient,” says Gamner. “In terms of fuel efficiency, we found the air-drag on the middle of the coach significant enough to merit the higher placement of the mirrors.”
Gamner further points out that the upper placement of mirrors on European coaches are in fact a legality, and not so much an aesthetic — and certainly something to think about. “Europe has a law that specifies the placement of the mirrors to protect passengers and pedestrians walking beside the coach,” she says. “While there is no such law in North America, we are seeing transit agencies taking it on themselves to elevate the mirrors and guard against such an accident.”
The Volvo 9700 evolves for new markets As motorcoaches gain more traction in the limousine livery sector and this niche continues to evolve, the Volvo 9700 appears to have found a new home, driven by its smooth handling, sophisticated interior and highend appointments. “To better serve this growing market, we have introduced a pure limousine treatment as an option,” says Gamner. “This edition features a more sublime, polished appearance that sends an inviting message to limousine and livery operators who may be eyeing motorcoaches.
The all-black exterior, coupled with a gray and black interior featuring leather seats and sparkled gray wood grain flooring, opens the door wider to chauffeured markets.” Considering the beginning price point of the Volvo 9700, these additional features should appear very inviting,” says Furo. “We will have this model available for demos following UMA and taking orders throughout the year.”
Gold Shield and WeDriveU are onboard Of the operators lining up for a first look, George Doyle and T.G. Doyle, owners of Gold Shield Transportation, a chauffeur transportation operation based in Lexington, Kentucky, are especially interested. Claiming to be the largest Volvo coach operator east of the Mississippi, Gold Shield runs 16 Volvo 9700s and has purchased only new model products since moving into motorcoaches in 2015.
“The change to adjustable seat slides has our attention,” says Gold Shield Chief Operations Officer T.G. Doyle. “We provide transportation for a number of sports teams, and simply being able to offer these taller athletes more legroom will mean everything to them. Being able to custom fit the coach for their trips will significantly boost our customer service.” The Volvo 9700 was new to North America when motorcoaches began trending in the limousine industry. Both the concept and the brands were not lost on Gold Shield.
“From the OEMs we could choose from, a business person such as myself always looks at the bottom line,” says Gold Shield President George Doyle. “For our first coach, the price point for the new Volvo 9700 just made sense and we were confident in Volvo manufacturing.” The Doyles say the confident relationship they enjoyed with the Prevost staff at the start has only strengthened with time.
“Our sales rep has a very good understanding of how we operate,” says George Doyle. “In situations he could not address, he has put us in touch with the correct people. Outside normal preventive maintenance, our issues have been minor and the Prevost team has always stepped up to help.” In addition, Gold Shield’s Customer Support Manager gets a special shout out. Their CSM was assigned to them before the company event took delivery of its first coach. “Our CSM stopped by, introduced himself and offered his cell phone number,” Doyle says. “When I reminded him we only had issues at night and on weekends, he said if we call he would always answer, and that’s the way it has been.”
WeDriveU, Inc., a transportation solution leader headquartered in Burlingame, California, specializes in shuttle service for employers and universities. WeDriveU provides transportation for more than six million passengers annually, utilizing a fleet of 750 assorted vehicles from SUVs to motorcoaches. Kyle Carson, vice president of fleet management, says the Volvo 9700 is a perfect fit for the long-distance commuter shuttles in regions such as the San Francisco Bay Area. “We rely on partners like Prevost to help us provide a safe, productive and comfortable ride for our passengers,” Carson says.
The WeDriveU fleet covers 20 million miles a year for employers and universities so Carson’s team focuses on matching the right vehicle strategy to each customer’s unique routes and transportation requirements. “The Volvo 9700 delivers reliability at a tremendous value and includes amenities such as workstations and leather seats for enhanced passenger comfort and productivity,” says Carson.
Carson praises the flexibility and responsiveness Prevost has shown WeDriveU. “Everyone on our Prevost team is responsive and flexible to our need for optimal uptime and safety,” he says. “We especially appreciate the maintenance network with specialized expertise in Volvo equipment.”
Grown from a heritage of safety and quality The 2019 Volvo 9700 for North America is cultivated from distinctive corporate cultures and nationalities, and deeply rooted in Volvo safety values from when Volvo Bus Corporation and the Henlys Group, Inc. acquired Prevost Car Inc. in 1995. Volvo Bus became the sole owner of Prevost in 2004 and in 2009, entrusted the Canadian coach builder to market, promote, sell and service the very popular Volvo 9700 in the U.S. and Canada.
From its headquarters in Quebec, Montreal, Prevost oversees the manufacturing of the coach in Tultitlán, Mexico. Volvo Powertrain North America manufactures the Volvo D13 diesel engine and the I-Shift transmission at its plant in Hagerstown, Maryland. As the mutual product of these two highly respected corporations with long histories, the Volvo 9700 has come to enjoy solid brand recognition and has earned a respected reputation for safety, comfort and luxury.
See the NEW 2019 Volvo 9700 Prevost invites all coach operators and staff to its booth #2421 during UMA Expo to check out the 2019 edition with the newest options.