The NABI brand’s roots can be traced back as far as the commencement of Hungarian bus design and manufacturing for the North American market. In 1976 an aircraft salesman created a reciprocal trade program involving Hungarian buses. The reciprocal trade program involved the Hungarian bus manufacturer Ikarus and an American bus manufacturer named Crown Coach Corporation. In 1977, Crown Coach and Ikarus struck a strategic alliance that would allow Ikarus to manufacture partially completed buses and ship them to Crown Coach in Los Angeles, CA for final assembly.
By the late 80s, Crown Coach was financially insolvent and Ikarus needed a new trade partner with which to launch its new prototype bus models in the U.S. market—the 40 foot 416 standard floor and the articulated 60 foot standard floor model. After completely dissolving its partnership with Crown Coach, Ikarus formed a new strategic alliance with Union City Body Company (UCBC) of Union City, IN. This new alliance was very similar to the previous alliance with Crown Coach with the buses partially manufactured in Hungary and assembled in the U.S. by UCBC. In 1988, property was purchased in Anniston, AL and ground broken on a new assembly plant.
In 1992 after the fall of the Soviet Union and the subsequent economic turbulence in Eastern Europe, the assets of the UCBC were purchased by the First Hungary Fund (FHF), and a new company was formed called American Ikarus which was owned by FHF. A new joint venture was established between FHF and Ikarus with Ikarus contributing a Hungarian manufacturing plant, designs and tooling; and FHF contributing operating capital and its U.S. company American Ikarus. From this new venture was born the NABI Brand.
Los Angeles Times
School Bus Maker Crown Coach to Close Next March
October 12, 1990|GEORGE WHITE, TIMES STAFF WRITER
Crown Coach Inc., a financially troubled Chino manufacturer of school buses, said Thursday that it plans to cease operations March 31.
Crown has been unprofitable the past three years, and the company’s owners–Chicago-based GE Capital Railcar Services–have had it on the block in recent months. Unable to find a buyer, GE Capital Railcar has decided to shut down the manufacturing operation and sell Crown’s assets, said Crown President Bruce Freeman. It has about 270 employees.
Crown has supplied school buses to the Los Angeles Unified School District and to other Southern California school districts. However, the company has been losing business to firms that make smaller and cheaper buses, Freeman said. Crown’s buses have either 78 or 90 seats. Some of its competitors build buses with 60 to 70 seats.
“The fact is that the current and future market for our products is shrinking, and the company is no longer a competitive member of this industry,” Freeman said.