I.G. Burton is leading all Blue Bird dealers in the number of new propane customers so far this year. To date, they have sold 50 buses to 15 new customers. This is a major shift in momentum for the dealer covering Delaware and Maryland, where from 2012 to 2015 a total of six customers had purchased 15 propane buses.
A number of factors led to a slower start and the dramatic turnaround they are seeing today. Early experiences with the program were less than stellar - they took possession of a pre-production demo bus before the program launched in 2012, and it left a bad taste in their mouth. There were also state legislative factors that made propane difficult to deploy in their market.
After overcoming those legislative challenges, and having some success stories under their belt from a few customer pilots, Wayne Warrington and Wayne Dhue began to focus on selling the propane-fueled option of the Blue Bird Vision bus.
"We attribute our success to customer satisfaction and believing in the product we sell," said Wayne Dhue, sales manager. "We have a 50 percent overall market share in our territory. Once we learned the benefits of propane-fueled buses, we starting sharing our knowledge with our customers. We find it easy to promote a product that is supported by a team like the ROUSH CleanTech field service group. Together, we're focused on the customer."
Dhue, along with account manager Wayne Warrington, took the alternative fuel sales training courses offered by Blue Bird and ROUSH CleanTech this year. After learning how much simpler and less expensive the maintenance of the propane fuel system is compared to a diesel system, they both began focusing on reaching out to customers in Delaware and Maryland to educate them about the product.
Dhue and Warrington traveled to expos and shows across both states, focusing their messaging on the lower fuel costs, maintenance costs and emissions of propane-fueled buses. Instead of propane-specific shows, they focused on events attended by local school bus decision makers - transportation directors and school board members.
"I like to tell my transportation and maintenance manager customers that their lives are going to be better with propane buses," said Warrington. "They're going to enjoy their lives more and feel better about their purchasing decisions while saving money."
Dhue and Warrington have utilized the ROUSH CleanTech tour reimbursement program, as well, and have brought many customers through the ROUSH CleanTech facility for tours. Following one tour, a customer in attendance was so impressed that he called another contractor and successfully convinced him to cancel his diesel order and order a propane bus instead.
Both Warrington and Dhue are incredibly passionate about continued training and learning about the propane product. They take advantage of the many sales and marketing programs offered by Blue Bird and ROUSH CleanTech, and they're paying off.
Dhue says he likes having a ROUSH CleanTech alt fuel sales manager at meetings early on in the process, to help ease any of his customer's hesitations.
I.G. Burton's has been so successful convincing current and new customers to go with propane this year, they have taken orders for an additional 50 Blue Bird propane buses. When school starts in the fall of 2016, the company will have a propane-fueled bus in every county in the state of Delaware.