On offering the Cummins ISB engine for CE Series buses (pictured), McKinney says that “we had a number of customers that were Cummins loyalists that prefer that engine. And then there’s our ability to be able to say, ‘We’re going to give you options.’”
Last year, IC Bus added the Cummins ISB6.7 as an engine option for CE Series school buses. Tell us about what drove the decision to add that option.
Ultimately, it came down to a simple decision. We had a number of customers that were Cummins loyalists that prefer that engine. And then there’s our ability to say, “We’re going to give you options.” So it really made sense. Now as we look at our lineup, we’ve got a MaxxForce 7 V8. We’ve got a DT in-line 6, and now we’ve got the ISB. So when we’re talking to a customer, we’re able to give them the full gamut. All of those are packaged in what we believe is the best chassis in the industry. It makes a lot of sense to us. We’ve had a great relationship with Cummins over the years, so that fits like a glove with us. You’ve got a lot of technicians that are trained on the ISB; they don’t want to switch — they have that technology. So it’s been a good fit, and we’ve been very pleased with how it’s been received.
About how many orders have you gotten for CE school buses with the ISB engine?
We’ve gotten 4,000 orders for school buses with the Cummins ISB. We’ve built 2,000 of those since this past January. Feedback from our customers has been terrific, so that’s been great. It’s been overwhelmingly positive. The products are performing well in service, and, again, why wouldn’t they? That’s a great engine, and we believe it’s packaged in a great chassis and a great product. So our expectation is that it ought to do the job.
In 2012, Navistar formed an agreement with Chinese truck maker JAC to develop and distribute school buses in China. What have been the results of that project so far?
I personally spent a lot of time in China as part of that. A couple of things: First of all, I was really excited that as a company, we spent a lot of time on our own with the Chinese government, with the technical people, just educating them on our mode of school buses. As you go to countries like China, the big deal is that the school bus controls traffic. When I think about where the U.S. market is at and the evolution of the industry in China, I think it’s going to take some time for their market to develop.
JAC is a partner of Navistar now. We have a joint venture on the engine side there. We continue to explore the market and see where we can play. We continue to look at the opportunities and offer our technical expertise where it makes sense. We do think potentially, someday, there’s something there.
In addition to China, we’ve been hearing about other foreign nations, such as the United Arab Emirates, taking steps to improve their school transportation systems. Are you seeing other opportunities for IC Bus abroad?
Certainly we saw the opportunity in China, and we’re able to play a role there. But we’ve seen strong interest in the Middle East as well. What we’re seeing is that region is looking to the school bus market in North America for guidance, similar to in China, and how to provide safe transportation for their students. So we started having some of those conversations a few years ago, and now we’re starting to see some of that take hold. In fact, recently, we just won a tender offer in Saudi Arabia for 200 school buses. These buses will be used to transport students. Just a few years ago, that was nothing more than an idea.
In most of the rest of the world, the school bus market that we know, an industry rooted in strict safety standards and a commitment to our children, that has a vehicle that controls traffic, is still an idea.
In North America, we know that controlling traffic and what happens around the bus is critical. That’s just an incredible amount for a country to get their heads around. I think in some form or fashion, it’s going to get there. It just takes some time.