Greg Bennett (left), president and CEO of Blue Bird Corp., and Steve Girardin, president of Micro Bird, say that both companies will benefit from their consolidated sales and manufacturing expertise.
In October, Blue Bird Corp. and Girardin Minibus announced a joint venture that merges the manufacturers' Type A bus products and distribution into one entity.
The new entity, located in Drummondville, Quebec, has been dubbed Micro Bird Inc. It is designing and fabricating the Type A school, activity and commercial buses, which are being branded Blue Bird Micro Bird by Girardin.
The buses are distributed and supported by the authorized Blue Bird dealer network.
SBF Executive Editor Thomas McMahon discussed the joint venture with Greg Bennett, president and CEO of Blue Bird Corp., and Steve Girardin, president of Micro Bird Inc.
SBF: Tell us how this joint venture came about.
GREG BENNETT: Blue Bird and Girardin have already enjoyed a long and successful relationship. In the '90s, Blue Bird and Girardin, through a marketing and joint manufacturing agreement, enjoyed a dominating share of the market. Blue Bird was recently at a decision point of investing further in the Type A product development or pursuing a partnership with another high-quality Type A manufacturer. The Micro Bird joint venture with Girardin was the unquestionable right choice.
From the companies' perspectives, what advantages does this partnership provide?
BENNETT: Blue Bird's Fort Valley and LaFayette, Ga., facilities will continue to focus efforts on designing and manufacturing the best Type C and D products on the market. The joint venture will also allow Blue Bird to free up production capacity for Type C and D products. The Blue Bird dealer network will now have a complete Blue Bird Type A school, MFSAB and commercial production line.
STEVE GIRARDIN: Both Blue Bird and Micro Bird Inc. will benefit from the consolidated sales and manufacturing expertise, ensuring that our customers continue to receive the highest quality, durability and dependability both Blue Bird and Girardin have always been known for manufacturing.
Are there any changes that existing Girardin or Blue Bird Type A customers should expect?
GIRARDIN: Customers can expect the continuation of high-quality products that our customers have come to expect. The Girardin Minibus brand will be phased out during the year in favor of the "Blue Bird Micro Bird by Girardin" brand. The new Micro Bird offering will be sold through Blue Bird's dealer network. Customers will now have a complete Blue Bird Type A school, MFSAB and commercial production line.
Are the Blue Bird Micro Bird by Girardin Type As being manufactured only in Drummondville or in Georgia as well?
BENNETT: Blue Bird Micro Bird by Girardin product will be manufactured in Drummondville. Blue Bird Type C Vision and Type D All American large bus chassis and bodies will continue to be produced in Blue Bird's Georgia facilities.
Our research found that overall school bus sales were down in the 2009 sales year, but Type A/B sales were up both in the U.S. and Canada. What's your outlook for the market in 2010?
GIRARDIN: Type A/B buses have enjoyed growth in 2009 and are hopeful to see continued growth in 2010. The Micro Bird joint venture product line is well positioned to capitalize on this growth.