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ABA Blog

The Evolution of Van Hool: A New Chapter Under VDL

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In a recent American Bus Association (ABA) member town hall, ABC Companies provided a comprehensive update on the future of the Van Hool brand, highlighting significant changes and exciting prospects under new ownership by VDL. This transition marks a pivotal moment in the history of Van Hool, a brand renowned for its innovation and quality in the bus and coach industry.

A Legacy of Excellence

Van Hool’s journey in North America began in 1987 when ABC Companies signed a distributor agreement to bring Van Hool products to the US and Canada. Over the past 35 years, more than 12,000 Van Hool motor coaches, ranging from 35-footers to double-deckers, including clean-burning diesel and fully electric models​​, have traversed North American roads. Roman Cornell, CEO of ABC Companies, reminisced, “We’ve had thousands of relationships all across North America, from single bus operators to some of the largest corporations in the world.”

This long-standing relationship has been built on trust, quality, and continuous innovation. Van Hool has consistently adapted to the evolving demands of the market, embracing new technologies and maintaining high standards of safety and efficiency. The brand’s commitment to sustainability is evident in its early adoption of clean energy solutions, offering customers a range of environmentally friendly options.

The VDL Acquisition

VDL’s recent acquisition of the Van Hool bus division marks the beginning of a new era. VDL, a third-generation family-run business with a diverse portfolio spanning high-tech, energy, infra-tech, food tech, and mobility sectors, now oversees the Van Hool brand. The acquisition includes the factory in Macedonia, the Van Hool name, brand, tooling, parts business, and all other bus-related assets​​.

VDL’s CEO, a dynamic 42-year-old leader, brings experience and innovation to the table. The company runs approximately 109 different enterprises, including ventures in semiconductors, chips, battery packs, fuel cells, and automotive collaborations with industry giants like Tesla, Jaguar, and Stellantis​​. This broad expertise positions VDL to infuse fresh innovation into the Van Hool brand, promising seamless integration and an exciting future for the bus and coach sector.

Integrating VDL’s advanced technologies and manufacturing capabilities with Van Hool’s established reputation is set to create a powerful synergy. VDL’s experience developing cutting-edge solutions, such as autonomous driving systems and electric drivetrains, will enhance Van Hool’s product offerings, making them more competitive globally.

From left: Roman Cornell, Chief Executive Officer of ABC Companies, and Willem van der Leegte, President & CEO of VDL Groep

By maintaining continuity in operations and support, ABC Companies ensures that Van Hool owners can confidently operate their vehicles. The unwavering commitment to customer satisfaction remains a cornerstone of ABC Companies’ philosophy.

Continuity and Stability

Amidst these changes, ABC Companies reassures its customers and partners of continued stability and support. Cornell emphasized that the Van Hool brand remains robust and unchanged, akin to a trusted recipe that doesn’t need alteration. “The Van Hool brand continues… the bus continues, our mechanics like the bus, most of our customers like the bus”​​.

VDL’s acquisition strategy is characterized by stability and long-term commitment. VDL is known for its “buy and hold” philosophy, unlike entities that flip companies. Over the years, they have acquired six European bus manufacturers, retaining ownership. This approach, coupled with the Cornell family’s regained 100% ownership of ABC Companies, assures a robust and secure future for Van Hool. “I think with the last 90 days of Van Hool being in that bankruptcy… I think it’s the safest brand in the world,” Cornell noted.

This stability is crucial for customers who rely on the dependability of their fleets. By maintaining continuity in operations and support, ABC Companies ensures that Van Hool owners can confidently operate their vehicles. The unwavering commitment to customer satisfaction remains a cornerstone of ABC Companies’ philosophy.

A Bright Future

The transition is not without its challenges, particularly regarding delivery timelines. However, ABC Companies is committed to minimizing disruptions. Production in the Macedonia factory never stopped, and parts flow is steadily improving. “We’re focused on helping VDL with the integration… we’re very excited about where the Van Hool brand ended,” said Cornell.

One key area of focus for the new Van Hool under VDL’s ownership is the development of advanced safety features. Innovations such as driver assist systems, collision avoidance technology, and enhanced passenger safety measures are being prioritized. These advancements enhance the safety of Van Hool vehicles and align with the industry’s move towards autonomous and connected transportation solutions.

Additionally, VDL’s expertise in electric and hydrogen fuel cell technology positions Van Hool to lead the transition to zero-emission transportation. As cities and countries worldwide set ambitious targets for reducing carbon emissions, the demand for clean-energy buses is rising. Van Hool’s ability to offer reliable and efficient electric and hydrogen-powered buses will be a competitive advantage.

ABC Companies and VDL are poised to bring new products and innovations to market, ensuring that Van Hool continues to lead in safety, technology, and efficiency. The collaboration aims to integrate advanced features like driver assist and crash avoidance systems, reinforcing Van Hool’s commitment to excellence.

Customer-Centric Approach

Throughout this transition, ABC Companies has maintained a customer-centric approach. Understanding the concerns and needs of their customers has been paramount. By keeping open lines of communication and providing timely updates, ABC Companies has fostered a sense of trust and reassurance among their clients. This proactive engagement has been instrumental in ensuring a smooth transition.

ABC Companies has also emphasized the importance of after-sales support. With a robust network of service centers and a dedicated parts supply chain, they are well-equipped to meet the maintenance and repair needs of Van Hool owners. Cornell highlighted, “The parts supply chain has improved significantly, and we are confident that we can meet the demands of our customers.” This dedication to service excellence ensures that Van Hool owners receive the support they need to keep their vehicles running smoothly.

Looking Ahead

VDL’s acquisition of Van Hool heralds a promising new chapter for the brand. With a legacy of quality and innovation, VDL’s robust backing, and ABC Companies’ steadfast support, Van Hool’s future looks brighter than ever. Customers, partners, and stakeholders can look forward to continued excellence and groundbreaking advancements in the bus and coach industry.

The integration of VDL’s technological prowess and Van Hool’s industry experience is set to redefine the standards in the bus manufacturing sector. As the world moves towards smarter, more sustainable transportation solutions, Van Hool, under VDL’s leadership, is well-positioned to lead the way.

The Van Hool brand is embarking on an exciting journey backed by a solid foundation of trust, innovation, and customer focus. The collaboration between ABC Companies and VDL ensures that Van Hool will continue to deliver top-tier products and services, meeting the evolving needs of the global transportation market. Van Hool’s future is bright, and the road ahead promises to be filled with innovation, growth, and success.

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