Bus Industry News, Company News

Challenger keeps customers satisfied after whirlwind year

Challenger Bus & Coach had a very successful 2022 after forging new relationships in the local industry. It’s looking at growing partnerships in 2023 and providing more quality vehicles.

As a heavy vehicle brand, Challenger Bus & Coach has a unique history.

As long-term operators of a fleet in Far North Queensland servicing the school bus market, private charter and corporate touring sectors, Challenger has an intricate idea of what the industry wants in vehicles.

Challenger’s experience as an operator led it to launch its own vehicle brand in 2017 under the watchful eye of owner and director Greg Sloan.

Since then, Challenger has ventured into making quality buses and coaches that stand out in the local market and have quickly caught the attention of a variety of operators around Australia.

Whitmore Bus Group’s managing director Jamie Whitmore first got involved with Challenger three years ago.

Whitmore, who also looks after Victoria’s Castlemaine Bus Lines, received his first Challenger vehicle in the form of a V12 at the 2019 BusVic Expo & Maintenance Conference.

For Whitmore, the past experiences of Sloan and his team at Challenger instantly intrigued him. Three years down the track, Whitmore doesn’t regret his decision to try the new bus brand.

“It interested me that Greg Sloan was a coach driver I had known for years,” Whitmore told ABC. “For him to throw his hands in the air and say he’ll build his own buses is a brave manoeuvre.

“That first V12 has given me fantastic performance. I’ve had no real issues with Challenger whatsoever.”

The V12 is a full 48 seat coach. It comes with a toilet equipped so it can run tours and complete various coachline and V/Line work. The adaptable nature of Challenger buses has quickly become a favourite feature for Whitmore.

“I love how tailorable the buses are,” Whitmore says. “I also love how if you do have a problem, you ring Greg and get a result quickly. All of the sales team members also look after you well.

“For me, starting as a small country operator, it’s nice to still be treated the same and with plenty of respect.”

Around a year ago, Whitmore was so impressed with his V12 that he purchased a second Challenger bus. Whitmore now runs his V10 on a school bus run. The operator says the quality of the vehicle is exceptional and he’s very impressed with its fuel efficiency and performance. 

Whitmore is satisfied with the people that make up the company and with two more Challenger vehicles on the way, he is committed to sticking with the brand.

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“I’ve got two more Challenger V12s coming for V/Line services,” Whitmore says. “They’ll be wheelchair equipped and will have a toilet onboard.

“If the product keeps performing the way it does and the service stays the same, I will certainly keep staying with them.”


On the other side of Australia, James Mulholland at Pinnacle Travel Group Perth is also enjoying the Challenger brand.

Pinnacle received its first V10 three months ago and Mulholland says taking the leap of faith in a new vehicle brand has been worthwhile.

“There was initially some caution in trying something new that wasn’t prevalent in the market,” Mulholland told ABC. “However, Challenger was prepared to put its money where its mouth was and have spare parts available, including windscreens and body panels.

“We then had great conversations with Greg about the engineering behind the vehicle and his experience as an owner operator and it gave us great confidence.”

These spare parts have been made easily available by Challenger’s recent launch of its spare parts business, Australasian Bus & Coach Parts. The venture allows customers like Pinnacle Travel Group Perth and Whitmore Bus Group to purchase cheaper spare parts from a wide variety of brands, not just Challenger.

Pinnacle has already received rave reviews about the vehicle. The 32-seat luxury vehicle has a toilet and kitchenette included, with Mulholland saying it has high quality flooring. For passengers, high-specification seats and leg rests emphasise a comfortable experience onboard the boutique Challenger vehicle.

“The feedback so far has been absolutely fantastic,” Mulholland says. “We’ve received great reports from passengers and drivers alike.

“We’ve had no issues with the vehicle and any minor problems that have come up have been attended to immediately by the Challenger team. We’re very happy with it all.”

Mulholland says Pinnacle elected to purchase the specification vehicle and add various parts into it, including the toilet and kitchenette. Instead of just staying with a standard bus, Pinnacle decided to make the vehicle unique, with a fridge and coffee machine installed alongside an additional basin.

Mulholland says being able to tailor the bus has made it a useful addition to his fleet at Pinnacle. It’s allowed the touring company to provide extra services for passengers looking to venture into extended touring. The positive experience with the Australian brand has encouraged Pinnacle Travel Group Perth to begin discussing future bus orders with Challenger.

“We’re fairly advanced in discussions with Challenger about ordering an extra two V12s,” Mulholland says. “These will be toileted vehicles as well, with delivery expected to be in the first or second quarter of this year.

“These two new buses will help us add to the customer experience. The amenities included improve the overall passenger comfortability.”

Yet it’s not just the quality and flexibility of the vehicles that have taken Pinnacle Travel Group Perth by storm. Mulholland says the after-sales service has been sublime since new Challenger salesman Wayne Eather started as the sales manager for Western Australia recently.

“The arrival of Wayne on site in Perth has made life a lot easier,” Mulholland says. “The back-up and support we receive on the phone, as well as the willingness of Challenger to take on modification suggestions from us, has been really pleasing.

“Challenger keeps continuing to develop its product to produce vehicles that we all want and love.”

Mulholland says Pinnacle is rapt to have chosen Challenger and he is now looking to the future.

The Perth-based touring charter group is intent on developing its relationship with the bus and coach brand, with Mulholland saying the V10 vehicle is of particular interest due to its ability to fill a gap in the mid-sized market.

The Pinnacle Travel Group director says the V10 is unique in the traditional foreign chassis market because it can’t be rivalled by other mid-size units.

With the V10 being designed for school and mining applications, Mulholland says the 32 seats in a smaller sized coach still maintains plenty of space, making it easier to go touring and navigating around tight spaces while keeping passengers comfortable.

Much like Whitmore Bus Group in Victoria, Pinnacle Travel Group Perth is predicting a future that remains heavily involved with Challenger Bus & Coach.

“Challenger is always receptive to our feedback and makes vehicles that dominate in markets where selection is small,” Mulholland says. “Our relationship with them has been very positive so far, and we’re looking forward to it continuing to grow.”

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