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Challenger announces plans to expand growing product range

New vehicle brand Challenger Bus & Coach is already taking to the Australian market like a duck to water. With more models set to be released next year, Challenger is using customer feedback to find its niche.

Since its inception in 2017, Australian vehicle brand Challenger Bus & Coach has been on a whirlwind of a journey as it prepares to release new models onto the market.

In just the past year alone, the
Melbourne-based company has expanded to establish Perth and Brisbane offices, with further plans to set up in Sydney too. Despite Challenger facing hurdles along the way, sales manager Dan Campbell says the brand has forged through to hit an exciting patch for the fledgling company.

“We started getting some momentum before COVID-19 hit as we were taking off,” Campbell told ABC.

“It was tough, but we’ve gotten through it and are now starting to build in the past six months as everything opens back up.

“Having recently gone to conferences, and with the Australasian Bus & Coach Expo coming up, it’s helped get us
going again.”

Challenger is coming up against some formidable competitors in the Australian bus and coach market, but Campbell says the vehicle brand has a distinct advantage over its larger competitors as Challenger begins to flourish.

“We hired sales managers from all different areas that were outside of the bus and coach industry,” Campbell says.

“We all really believe in the product we’re selling. We’re a tight-knit family community in the business.

“It’s all about continuing to expand and showcasing our products firsthand.”

Just a few years into its operations as a company, Challenger Bus & Coach had to handle the interruptions that COVID-19 brought with it. Campbell says Challenger is now enjoying being able to show its V10 and V12 bus models in person to customers as it aims to build upon its recent growth.

He says the V12 model is receiving positive feedback in both the coach and school bus option and that the flexibility of its models will remain critical as it looks to move forward from Euro 5 vehicles to Euro 6.

“We have a couple of buses due to land that have been purchased for
V/Line services that will be built with toilets and wheelchair lifts incorporated,” Campbell says.

“One of our strengths is our flexibility – we work with what operators want or need, depending on contracts, and can do whatever they need to a high standard. Whether it be a 45-seat school bus or a luxury coach with air purifiers, USB charging ports and more, we can do it.”

Challenger ensures these flexible options are well-made. With high-quality componentry coming from the likes of ZF, Cummins, Meritor and Thermo King, Campbell says Challenger is excited to show customers the finer details of its buses and coaches. 

One of the biggest drawcard when it comes to quality products is its steel. Campbell says Challenger is using different steel options like Stalatube and Lean Duplex that are guaranteed to not corrode. A section of the Stalatube stainless steel chassis has been outdoors in country Victoria, exposed to exteme weather conditions for more than four years with no corrosion.

Campbell says Challenger is using these materials as a key way of selling its buses and getting ahead of the game in the Australian market.

It’ll continue using quality products to build flexible options with its incoming models. Campbell says Challenger has a new V8 model with 25–30 seats coming soon in a similar format to existing models. Challenger has also been working on a low-floor bus option and an electric bus, with both set to be released to the market next year.

The Challenger sales manager says the company is referring to customer sentiment when developing its next range of products.

RELATED ARTICLE: Challenger Expo preview

“After talking to customers, we want to be sustainable and economical, so we see electric buses as the way of the future,” Campbell says.

“One of the great parts of our V10 is that, for a coach of its size, it can be flexible and is more durable than competitors.

“We heard durability was a major factor for our buses, so even in remote areas where roads aren’t as good, we have made buses that have durability.”

As a recent example, Challenger sold a luxury coach to Pinnacle Coach Lines in Western Australia. Despite only being on the road for a couple of weeks, Campbell says the 32-seat V10 model with a kitchen and toilet has received great ongoing feedback.

As a young company in the Australian bus and coach industry, Challenger is still trying to find its niche in the market. Campbell says the vehicle brand will produce electric versions of its V10 and V12 models as well as releasing 25–30 seat options for operators.

He says the company is confident its zero-emissions options will stand up in the market as a reliable choice for customers. Alongside these models, Challenger is also prioritising its aftersales sector.

“Nothing is perfect, and we admit that things can always go wrong,” Campbell says.

“As soon as it does, our priority is to get it resolved.”

As part of its service, Challenger will deliver certain parts of the bus, including windscreens, filters and belts, to be used at any time by the operator to remove lead times.

The vehicle brand is carrying parts at its three different locations in Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane, and the company’s expansion means it will soon be able to offer this service on a larger scale throughout Australia.

The parts business linked to Challenger is called Australasian Bus & Coach Parts. Campbell says he’s excited about the potential for Challenger to continue growing as a company.

“Our end goal is to source and carry in stock parts that are well priced for all bus brands so that customers can call us for anything they require, and we’ll see what we can do,” Campbell says.

“We want to be a business that continues to look after customers, long after they have purchased our vehicles. At Challenger we are proud to be an Australian owned and operated business and we look forward to increasing our manufacturing footprint in Australia as we continue to grow.”

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