Blue Bird Corporation: Wikis


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Blue Bird Corporation
Type Privately held company
Founded 1927
Founder(s) Albert L. Luce, Sr.
Headquarters 402 Blue Bird Blvd
P.O. Box 937
Fort Valley, GA 31030
, United States
Area served North America
Worldwide (Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe and the Middle East.)[1]
Key people Greg Bennett, President and CEO
Industry Bus manufacturing
Products School buses
Activity buses
Employees ~1800
Parent The Traxis Group, B.V.

Blue Bird Corporation, previously known as Blue Bird Body Company, is a manufacturer of school and activity buses.[2] Blue Bird's corporate headquarters and main manufacturing facility are in Fort Valley, Georgia.




1927-1945: Foundation and All-Steel School Buses

Blue Bird was founded in 1927 by Albert L. Luce, Sr. His company became a leading producer of school buses in the Americas. That same year, both Blue Bird Body Company and Wayne Works of Richmond, Indiana reportedly began building all-steel bus bodies, an innovation which soon replaced the wooden bodies which were then in common use around the United States. The early use of farm wagons on a part-time basis soon evolved into purpose-built school bus products, each with economy and function as major priorities.

As the second quarter of the 20th century began, Albert Luce Sr. was one of the entrepreneurs of the period who transitioned from building wagons to developing some of the earliest purpose-built school buses. In a 1939 conference, Blue Bird engineers helped to develop the color school bus yellow, which is still in use today. Blue Bird and Wayne Corporation were several of the earliest to experiment with steel body construction, although such efforts were severely limited by war production product shortages and restrictions during World War II.

1945-1960: The First All American

Following World War II, continuing a transition from one-room schools, there was a nationwide movement in the US to consolidate schools into fewer and larger ones, facilitating graded class structures. This meant that fewer students were attending school in their immediate neighborhoods, particularly as they progressed into high school, and the previous practice of walking to school for many became impractical. This led in turn to a large increase in the demand for transportation.

The company grew substantially and became a major school bus body builder in the post-World War II period. In 1948, Blue Bird founder Albert Luce Sr. saw a design for a flat front bus at an auto show in Paris, France. Two years later Blue Bird Body Company introduced their own transit style design which evolved into the Blue Bird All-American, often pointed to as one of the pioneer transit designs to gain widespread acceptance for school buses in North America, along with Wayne Corporation, Gillig Corporation and Crown Coach Corporation (whose "Supercoach" dated to 1932). In 1952, Blue Bird became the first school bus manufacturer to produce its own chassis rather than rely on outside suppliers for the All American;today, all large Blue Bird buses have Blue Bird chassis.[3]

1960-1990: Blue Bird as a Market Leader

Blue Bird became an international manufacturer of school buses with the opening of Blue Bird Canada in Brantford, Ontario in 1958.[4]

In the 1960s, Blue Bird Body Company also started making luxury motor coaches based on the All-American. Branded "Wanderlodge", the first of this popular product line was built in 1963 Blue Bird entered the commercial public transit bus market in the 1970s. The shorter wheelbase transit-style models proved popular with smaller cities and those with cul-de-sec route ends, providing better manueverability, and more efficient costs than larger models.

In 1980, Blue Bird was one of the "big six" school bus body manufacturers in the United States, competing with Carpenter Body Company, Superior Coach Company, Thomas Built Buses, Inc., Ward Body Company, and Wayne Corporation. By 2001, that number would be reduced to three. For the 1988 model year, Blue Bird supplemented the long-running All-American school bus line with the lower-priced TC/2000 transit school bus, which was intended to secure bids from larger fleet operators. Unlike most of its competitors, Blue Bird supplied its own chassis for the TC/2000 instead of relying on a separate supplier, creating a competitve advantage. The TC/2000 quickly became a success, bringing great attention to the Type "D" design capturing a full 10% of the North American school bus production in 1989, according to one industry source.[citation needed] The TC/2000 remained a staple of the Blue Bird lineup until 2003. However, the "conventional" design, with a truck type hood and front-end (known as "type C" on modern school buses) was to continue to dominate US school bus manufacturing through the end of the 20th century.

1990-2006: Ownership changes

Until 1992, Blue Bird was a private family-owned company. From 1992 to 1999, Blue Bird was owned by a management led buyout team in association with Merrill Lynch Capital Partners.

The Q-Bus commercial bus for transit and charter applications was introduced in 1992.[5] Sagging demand, financial difficulties and changing world markets in the 1990s and early 2000s lead to Blue Bird closing two plants and opening another. Blue Bird East was shut down in 1992; Blue Bird de Mexico in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico, was opened in 1995.

Blue Bird was owned by the British Henlys Group PLC with a substantial financial stake held by Volvo Group[6] from 1999 to 2004. Henlys had financial difficulties during this time, including some not related to its investment in Blue Bird. Blue Bird de Mexico in Monterrey, Mexico was closed in 2001.[7] Blue Bird Midwest was closed in 2002.

According to news release from the company in the fall of 2004, Blue Bird became the "sole operating subsidiary" of a newly created holding company, Peach County Holdings Inc. As part of the deal, a banking syndicate made up of Henlys creditors owned 42.5 percent of the Peach stock, according to Blue Bird. The Volvo Group (the world's largest bus manufacturer) owned another 42.5 percent, with the balance owned by Henlys' "pension scheme" and Blue Bird's management. However, after a bankruptcy filing, Blue Bird was acquired by Cerberus Capital Management, resulting, in connection with the acquisition by Cerberus of North American Bus Industries and Optima Bus Corporation, in Cerberus having a complete line of school and transit buses. Blue Bird is currently owned by the Traxis Group B.V., who acquired them in 2006. [8]

2007-present: Renewed Focus On School Buses

Through 2007, Blue Bird executed a series of plant closing and product line divestitures intended to re-focus the company on the school bus market in an effort to improve profitability and market position.[9] The commercial bus product lines were spun off to Cerberus subsidiary North American Bus Industries, Inc. for assembly at NABI's Anniston, Alabama facilities.[9] Blue Bird’s original and last remaining international plant, Blue Bird Canada, was closed August 10, 2007.[4] Later in 2007, the Wanderlodge line was sold to Complete Coach Works, ending Blue Bird's 44 year participation in the recreational vehicle market. [9][10]

Blue Bird No. 1, the first steel-body Blue Bird school bus, was donated to The Henry Ford in 2008.[11]

In October 2009, Blue Bird entered into a joint venture with Canadian school bus manufacturer Girardin Minibus. The partnership, named Micro Bird, Inc. will end production of the current Micro Bird model to consolidate all Type A school bus production at the current Girardin facilities in Quebec, Canada. All future Type A school buses will be branded Blue Bird Micro Bird® by Girardin while Blue Bird itself focuses on Type C and D buses. [12]

Manufacturing and assembly

Traditionally, school buses such as those produced by Blue Bird consist of components purchased from various "outside" suppliers and parts which are manufactured "in house" to the company's specifications. These two categories of parts are then typically assembled into bodies which can be mounted onto chassis which have often been variations of those used in a myriad of truck applications.

Production-wise, the large "home" plant complex in Fort Valley, Georgia served as both an in house part manufacturing plant for the entire organization, as well as one of the six locations where bodies were assembled from in house and purchased components. Parts and service were also located in Fort Valley, as was Wanderlodge Wayside Park, a tree-shaded motor home park for visiting Wanderlodges adjacent to the Wanderlodge plant.


In addition to school, activity, and commercial applications, Blue Bird buses have been custom-built for unique applications such as bloodmobiles, mobile libraries, and public safety command centers.

Current product line

Current Product Line
Model Name Micro Bird Vision All American
Photo Late 2000s Blue Bird Micro Bird on Chevrolet Express chassis 2008 Blue Bird Vision 2010 Blue Bird All American FE on display at a transportation show.
Year Introduced 1975 2004 1948
Assembly Fort Valley, Georgia LaFayette, Georgia Fort Valley, Georgia
Configuration Type A Type C Type D
  • front engine
  • rear engine
Chassis Manufacturer Ford Motor Company

General Motors

Blue Bird Blue Bird
Fuel Type(s)
  • Gasoline
  • Diesel
  • Diesel
  • Propane
  • Diesel
  • Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)
Other Notes
  • Will be phased out during 2010-2011 and replaced with products from Micro Bird, Inc. joint venture with Girardin.
  • From 1992-1999, the Micro Bird was sold alongside Girardin-produced Blue Bird MB-II/MB-IV models.
  • From 1995-1996, a heavy-duty model using the Chevrolet P30 chassis was produced using modified Chevrolet G30 front bodywork.
  • The Vision was introduced by Blue Bird in 2004 and is currently in its second generation.
  • The Vision uses an in-house chassis from Blue Bird, unique among Type C school buses.
  • The All American FE chassis has been produced on a Blue Bird-designed chassis since 1952; the All American RE chassis has been produced by Blue Bird since 1988. [13]
  • The current All American (2010 model year) is known as the "D3" internally, replacing the previous-generation "A3", which was sold from 1999-2009.
  • Originally sold in Canada as the All Canadian and TC/3000 but now marketed there as the TX3.[14]
New Products

The 2010 All American, which features a complete exterior and interior redesign, was revealed at the 2008 NAPT trade show on October 28th, 2008, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.[15]

Former product lines

School Buses
Small Buses
Model Name MB-II/MB-IV Mini Bird
late 1990s Blue Bird/Girardin MB-II 1995-2000 Blue Bird Mini Bird
Configuration Type A
  • single rear wheel (MB-II)
  • dual rear wheel (MB-IV)
Type B
Years Produced 1992-1999 1977-2005
Chassis Supplier Ford Motor Company

General Motors

General Motors
  • Chevrolet P30
  • Drummondville, Quebec, Canada
  • Buena Vista, Virginia
  • Mount Pleasant, Iowa
  • Produced by Canada's Girardin Minibus and distributed in the United States as Blue Bird-brand products[16]
  • MB-II still produced by Girardin today.
  • The Mini Bird was Blue Bird's first bus aimed primarily towards special-needs customers.
Large Buses
Model Name Conventional
CV200 & SBCV
TC/1000 TC/2000
Blue Bird CV200 1988-1990 Blue Bird TC/2000 school bus (retired)
Configuration Type C Type D (front-engine) Type D
  • front engine (1988-2003)
  • rear-engine (1991-1998)
Years produced 1960s-2006 1997-2001 1988-2003
Chassis Supplier

Chrysler Corporation

  • Dodge S-Series (dropped in 1977)

DaimlerChrysler Corporation

  • Freightliner FS-65 (1997-2002)

Ford Motor Company

  • Ford B700 (1966-2001)

General Motors

International Harvester

Navistar International

Blue Bird Blue Bird
  • LaFayette, Georgia
  • Mount Pleasant, Iowa
  • Buena Vista, Virginia
  • Brantford, Ontario, Canada
  • Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico
  • Fort Valley, Georgia
  • LaFayette, Georgia
  • Mount Pleasant, Iowa
  • Brantford, Ontario, Canada
  • Replaced by Vision in 2004.
  • Navistar-chassis version was sold as the Blue Bird SBCV from 2004-2006.
  • Only Blue Bird was supplied Type C chassis from GM from 1992 to 2003.
  • Marketed primarily for special-needs customers
  • Smaller than TC/2000
  • Front-engine only
  • Flat-floor interior configuration
  • Lighter duty chassis than All American
  • Lower price meant to attract larger fleet buyers.
"Large Marge", A 1980 Blue Bird FC33 Wanderlodge motorhome
A 1980 Blue Bird Wanderlodge
Transit Buses
  • Ultra LF, Ultra LMB, and Xcel 102 - commercial buses; product line still produced by parent corporation subsidiary North American Bus Industries, Inc. (NABI) at their Anniston, Alabama facilities
  • CS - derived from TC/2000 and All American Type D school buses.
  • Wanderlodge - luxury recreational vehicle/motorcoach; rights to product line sold to Complete Coach Works in 2007. Production ceased in 2009.
  • Envirobus 2000 -a late 1990s natural-gas school bus prototype that was a testbed for safety-related technology.[17] Not intended as a production vehicle.
  • EC-72 -a late-2000s limited series of Type C school bus prototypes intended to test out new production designs. Closely related to 2008 Blue Bird Vision. Approximately 50 were produced.

Manufacturing Facilities

Blue Bird Corporation currently operates two manufacturing facilities. They are Blue Bird Body Company in Fort Valley, Georgia and Blue Bird North Georgia in LaFayette, Georgia. In the past, Blue Bird maintained an international presence with two factories in Canada, one in Mexico, and one in South America. These have all been closed due to changing market conditions and Blue Bird's change back to a lineup of school bus-based vehicles.

Name Location Products Notes
Blue Bird Body Company Fort Valley, Georgia
  • First Fort Valley facility opened in 1935; destroyed by fire in 1945.
  • Present Fort Valley facility opened in 1946.
Blue Bird North Georgia LaFayette, Georgia opened 1982
Blue Bird Canada Brantford, Ontario, Canada
  • TC/2000
  • Conventional
  • Micro-Bird
  • parts
  • opened 1958; closed in 2007
  • Blue Bird also opened a facility in St. Lin, Quebec, in 1975.
Blue Bird Midwest Mt. Pleasant, Iowa
  • TC/2000
  • Conventional
  • Mini-Bird,
  • Micro-Bird
opened 1962; closed 2002
Blue Bird de Mexico Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico
  • Conventional
opened 1995; closed 2001
Blue Bird East Buena Vista, Virginia
  • Conventional
  • Mini Bird
opened 1972; closed 1992
Blue Bird Central America Guatemala City, Guatemala opened 1965; closed 1980s
Blue Bird Wanderlodge Fort Valley, Georgia opened 1963 (as Cardinal Manufacturing); closed 2007


See also


  1. ^ "Blue Bird Corporation/About Us/Overview". Retrieved 2010-01-09. 
  2. ^ Blue Bird Corporation
  3. ^ "Blue Bird Corporation/About Us/History". Retrieved 2010-01-11. 
  4. ^ a b [ Blue Bird Corporation To Relocate Micro Bird Production; Blue Bird Press Release, May 8, 2007
  5. ^ Blue Bird Body Co. 1996 10-K405 Annual Report -- [X] Reg. S-K Item 405
  6. ^ "Volvo Group; Volvo Logistics North America". Retrieved 2009-08-10. 
  7. ^ Osborne, Alistair (2001-09-07). "; Henlys takes a skid after US bus sales fall". Retrieved 2009-08-10. 
  8. ^ "Blue Bird Corporation/About Us/History". Retrieved 2010-01-09. 
  9. ^ a b c Blue Bird Corporation To Sell Coachworks Coach And RV Product Lines To Complete Coach Works; Blue Bird Press Release, July 16, 2007
  10. ^ CCW Acquires Blue Bird Coachworks and Wanderlodge
  11. ^ "School Bus Fleet News, Blue Bird No. 1 donated to historical institution, March 10, 2008". 2008-03-10. Retrieved 2009-08-10. 
  12. ^ "Press Releases/BLUE BIRD AND GIRARDIN ANNOUNCE JOINT VENTURE(2009-10-19)". Retrieved 2010-01-17. 
  13. ^ "Blue Bird Corporation/About Us/History". Retrieved 2010-01-09. 
  14. ^ "Autobus Girardin - Minibus (Specialized bus) Used minibus | Autobus Girardin (School bus) Girardin Minibus". 2009-05-23. Retrieved 2009-08-10. 
  15. ^ "National Association for Pupil Transportation". 2009-07-30. Retrieved 2009-08-10. 
  16. ^ "Girardin; A Brief History". Retrieved 2009-08-10. 
  17. ^ Archived version of Blue Bird's website on this vehicle, with link to specifications.

External links


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