FT. VALLEY, Ga. — Attendees of next month’s 32nd Annual NAPT Conference and Trade Show should expect more than the world famous barbecue Kansas City has to offer. At least when doors open to the trade show the afternoon of Nov. 7, most eyes will turn to something new that is shiny and yellow.
As the company nears its one-year anniversary of successfully emerging from bankruptcy proceedings, Blue Bird Corporation is unveiling the latest generation of its Vision flagship model. The previous Vision was instrumental in helping the company rebound from Chapter 11, as sales far exceeded original estimates and boosted investor confidence. Now, amid, company acquisition by financial services power Cerberus, Blue Bird is ready to show the world a piece of the future.
“There were several design improvements we wanted to make,” said Dennis Whitaker, vice president of school bus engineering. “Now is an excellent time to work on the styling, also.”
He said the new Vision is an even better product because cooling and engine suppliers were involved in the manufacturing process “earlier than they ever have before.”
Added Jay McDuffie, Blue Bird’s manager of advertising, communications and training: “This new Vision model is currently being built with 2006 engine. When new engines come in, it will have all of these same features, plus a full chassis/body multiplexed electrical system.”
Because of new air flow improvements that are necessary for the new reduced emissions 2007 engines, Whitaker explained Blue Bird engineers needed to increase space under the hood not only for the engines but also to make room for larger cooling packages. As a result, the Vision is set for the new emissions standards going forward.
Blue Bird also decided to improve the styling to make the new Vision a sleeker version of its old self with a better looking bumper, softer lines and even company branding on the hood so customers can better recognize the vehicle as a Blue Bird school bus.Blue Bird engineers purposely built the chassis for a school bus and nothing else. They also turned their attention inside, where they provide more room for the driver by providing better ergonomics with a new tilt telescoping column and an easier to use instrument panel for driver switches.
“We’re very proud of the Vision. These changes will make it much better for the driver,” said McDuffie.
In addition to the Vision, Blue Bird will unveil at NAPT the EC-72, a brand new Type C. “The EC-72 is really a more basic transportation bus without frills,” McDuffie explained. “It is more of a standard bus, one we can build on the line with a simpler design and fewer options, and yet offers the same quality as other Blue Bird products.”
Sometime in the New Year, customers can also expect to see a new Micro Bird Type A hit the streets.
Reprinted from the October 2006 issue of School Transportation News magazine. All rights reserved.