Building up this reputation over the years through a commitment to quality and innovation, surging demand has them now heading south of the border and into the private markets of the United States. Normand Paquet, Vice President of sales and marketing, and James Mansell, National Sales Manager for the company’s newly established U.S. presence, discuss the company philosophy that has led up to their current success, as well as why they’re extremely confident in their future as they take a big step forward. Steve Engelhardt reports.
Travelling across Canada, there’s a good chance one will see Micro Bird buses alongside themselves on the road, no matter if you’re in Quebec, Toronto, or even British Columbia. In fact, it’s possible you may even be travelling in one yourself. “In Canada we own 50 percent of the market share, says Paquet, adding, “In terms of our presence in Canada, we are the leader in providing shuttle buses, tour buses, and the like.”
Micro Bird’s fleet is defined by two different models, the S-Series and the D-Series, as well as a number of different customizable specialty vehicles, with each vehicle able to hold up to 25 passengers at a given time. The S-Series is a single rear wheel model produced on a Ford or General Motors’ chassis of a slimmer body shape. “It’s an extremely handy vehicle to have when travelling through an urban location where there may be narrow streets or cars parked on both sides of the road,” says Mansell, adding, “This vehicle also comes in a DLX (Deluxe) version, where customers are given the option of a more luxurious interior and smoother overall finish.”
The D-Series is what is known as Micro Bird’s “duel rear wheel unit”. Also available in either standard or deluxe versions, the vehicle is a bit bigger than its S-Series counterpart and is available in a number of different configurations, an aspect that Mansell believes will facilitate demand from a “wide number of dealers and overall networks within the United States.”
While part of their initial confidence and success in the U.S. market is because of their vehicles’ dynamicity, an even greater strength Micro Bird brings into partnerships is their deep-rooted experience and record for safety and overall structural quality. “In addition to commercial needs, we also have enjoyed a strong presence in the school bus industry given our partnership with companies like Blue Bird,” says Paquet, adding, “and because of the safety and structural requirements legislated for such vehicles, we have become a leader over the years in effectively testing and engineering our vehicles in a manner that makes them some of the strongest and safest vehicles on the road at any given time.”
Servicing the Customer
And where their vehicles may encounter issues, they have an extremely effective and competent maintenance presence to ensure that their buses are back up and running as quickly as possible. “We enjoy access to GM and Ford’s service networks to handle any engine issues that may arise, as well as a tremendous partnership with ROUSH CleanTech for any fuel service needs,” Mansell says. He says that in the U.S. there will be additional service locations in 46 states made possible through their Blue Bird dealer network. ”Our vehicles are built upon quality and reliability, but we know that if anything does happen to one of our units, our customers have access to a service network that will quickly and effectively handle any and all needs they may have.”
Beyond servicing, Micro Bird also acts as a trusted source of industry knowledge for their current and potential customers. “We had a contractor in Chicago come to us, asking about the potential benefits of utilizing alternative fuels over diesel within his fleet of buses,” says Mansell, adding, “So we flew out there, and discussed with him and his fleet manager the savings, cost of ownership, and where the future of such fuels was headed.” He says that the individual initially agreed to use their alternative fuels in one of his buses, but after a year of use that led to tremendous savings in fuel, he quickly switched his entire fleet over. “We welcome our customers to use us as a source of knowledge, and love to demonstrate just what they can gain from us a designer and manufacturer,” he says.
Micro Bird manufactures all of its vehicles inside of a 100,000-square-foot production facility located within its headquarters in Drummondville, Quebec. “We are ISO 9001: 2008 certified, and have an additional 71,000-square-foot warehouse down the road designated for just-in-time delivery on the assembly line, allowing us to quickly and efficiently complete and adapt to lead times,” says Paquet.
Demanding the Market
Through all of this—quality, experience, service—it’s no wonder that Micro Bird’s phones are flying off the hook from calls coming in from the U.S. “While we already have a network of dealers set up through our partnership with Blue Bird, we’re seeing demand from many other players outside of that arena,” says Mansell, adding, “We believe that given our buses’ quality, safety, and overall cost of ownership, it makes us a perfect niche for the U.S. private market, and the feedback we have received thus far has validated such sentiments.”
It’s about taking the next step as a business, and it’s a step that the company is well-suited to make at this time. Paquet says that over the last seven years the company has averaged an annual growth of between 10 and 15 percent. “We were able to continue to grow even in the face of the Great Recession, and when you can do that, you put yourself in a great position to accelerate even further when the economy does come back, a period I believe we are certainly in the midst of,” says Paquet. 2015 should be a record year, he says, because in addition to a ramped up presence in the United States’ private markets, the company also recently unveiled a couple brand new vehicle models at the APTA EXPO 2014 in Houston, Texas. “These vehicles will further expand our line of options for customers, and further broaden the market arena in which we impact.”
It’s an exciting moment for Micro Bird, and their success looks to grow exponentially as they arm themselves with experience and quality in taking on the world’s biggest market. “At the surface we are simply a solution for transportation, but it goes so much deeper than that,” Paquet says, concluding, “Our reputation and identity is one we’re very proud of, and we look forward to continue to display such across both Canada and U.S. dealerships for many years to come.”