GREAT PARTY FOR 70 YEARS VAN HOOL
The second Busworld night featured around 70 years of Van Hool. Their spacious, new stand was completely decorated in the light of a great party. And it was. After a short speech in which CEO Filip van Hool greeted the more than 300 attendees, the party was kicked off by famous deejay Guy Depré.
In agreement with Van Hool, he had composed a music repertoire with the highlights of Van Hool’s history. Seventy years of Van Hool combined with seventy years of music history; it was a nice overview and also brought a lot of people to the dance floor, which served as confirmation of what Filip van Hool had said: “We from Van Hool are happy because we are again at Busworld Kortrijk, but at the same time, we are a little sad because it is the last time here. However, Van Hool is now seventy years old. My grandfather Bernard founded the company in 1947, shortly after the Second World War. Today, we are still for one hundred percent a family business. Van Hool is famous for combining tradition, innovation and quality. All those years, we have listened and will continue to listen to the wishes of our customers and their passengers, but first: time to party!”
Expansion in Macedonia and USA
Van Hool has big plans for the near future. The seventy years young family company hopes to launch a completely new city bus on the US market by 2020 and also has expanded the factory in Skopje, Macedonia to eight production lines. Projects are pending for the European market as well, including a new city bus.
Despite production facilities in Macedonia and later in the USA, the Belgian municipality of Koningshooikt remains the beating heart of the family business whose daily agenda focuses on engineering, customizing and high-end vehicles such as the ExquiCity. The standard production moves entirely to Macedonia, where the factory was expanded by four production lines in no time and which already employs 970 people, a number that soon will exceed one thousand.
The American bus will be fully built in the USA. CEO Filip Van Hool already has a state and location in mind, but further investigation is still required. The city bus for the USA will run on diesel or CNG. It will be built entirely modularly with mainly American components in order to comply with the Buy American Act. Filip Van Hool hopes to launch the first US city bus by 2020. Earlier in time, i.e. January 2018, a facelift of the American coaches CX45 and CX35 will be rolling from the conveyors.
Parallel or somewhat later, Van Hool also hopes to introduce a modernized city bus for Europe. Key goals are lower weight, custom design and modular construction. Filip Van Hool hopes to unveil the new European city bus in 2020 or at the latest in 2021.
This new European standard city bus will be built in Macedonia and/or Belgium, depending on the power train, design and numbers. Producing standard buses in Belgium is no longer possible due to the high wage costs in Belgium. “I like to keep as much as I can in our country. We hope to maintain a certain stability in Belgium”, says Filip Van Hool.
The heavy Belgian income taxes are also the reason why Van Hool did not subscribe for the latest tenders, not even in his own country. “But we’ll be back”, says CEO Filip Van Hool firmly.
In the USA, it takes no longer than two days to get the necessary permits for the construction of a new factory whereas in Belgium, it takes ten months to get one for an internal renovation inside the factory. Filip Van Hool is not surprised by this difference in approach.
As is known, Van Hool is going to build a new factory in the USA for the production of a new city bus. He already has a location in mind but an internal team has to check some things before the final decision can be made. CEO Filip Van Hool: “I have visited five states and the governor of one state came to my desk in Koningshooikt in person with all the required permits only one week later.
However, decisions that involve such amounts of money are not made overnight. Taxes, presence of technical schools, subcontractors, available professions, logistics, etc. are all parameters that require research. Of course, we have gained experience with Macedonia, but we do not want to rush things. I do not want to stumble anywhere. The final decision will be made around the turn of the year.
CEO Filip Van Hool feels great about the American story. The USA are more business-oriented, the states cultivate manufacturing. On top of that, the cooperation between companies and schools is much stronger, just like training for professionals. Schools have state-of-the-art machines that meet the needs of the companies. Production is wanted there. So far the analysis of CEO Filip Van Hool.
But of course, Europe and the rest of the world are not out of mind. The current TX range is nicely tagging along with the technological evolutions but the look and feel stays the same. With the EX, which significantly reduced in weight (minus 600 kg), Van Hool wants to conquer the Japanese, Australian and New Zealand market, in addition to the European market. The first EXs are already driving around there.