Anger as Van Hool buyers have coaches in limbo

Van Hool customers with vehicles in build say they have been left high and dry by new owners VDL, who have not told them when or if they will see their money or their coaches.

VDL Groep acquired the North Macedonia Van Hool factory and elements of Van Hool in Belgium which between them have many UK operators’ coaches in build. Yet since the acquisition from the receiver in March, operators have faced silence, not knowing what to do, although B&CB has obtained a statement from VDL Groep to say they will be contacting Van Hool customers about completion of coaches.

Dave Parry, of Parrys International – one of Van Hool’s most devoted customers – had paid in full for one coach and paid a deposit on another: “It’s a shocking mess,” he told B&CB. “We have written to both VDL and the receivers to find out what is happening to our coaches, and haven’t had the courtesy of a reply, only an email address which also didn’t get a reply.”

Dave said that his exposure is around £600,000, and most worryingly, he’d spoken to a former employee who said VDL was planning to sell off the vehicle stock, possibly for scrap or parts: “It just seems to me that VDL is only interested in Van Hool’s American market and ‘deckers. Nobody has has been given any information.”

This was confirmed by Russell Sharpe, of Sharpes of Nottingham, another Van Hool devotee with a coach on order: “The communication has been extremely poor. I’ve been given four new email addresses and emailed all four. The only response has been from parts procurement, who said they are working on a new structure for parts importation. It’s been tortuous.”

Russell said that Sharpes had placed an order for new T series at Busworld in Brussels: “They have had the deposit. The question now is whether VDL are going to honour the order.” Russell said a WhatsApp group has been established of affected operators, including some in the EU.

Another customer, Paul Cartwright of A&P Travel of Sleaford, told B&CB: “To says I’m absolutely devastated is an understatement. In my opinion, it is commercially suicidal, as VDL have now antagonised all former Van Hool customers.”

In response to B&CB’s inquiry, a statement from VDL Groep said: ‘For matters pre-dating the Van Hool bankruptcy, parties should contact the trustees. Regarding your second question, about completing the build of the coaches: we are, or will be, in contacts [sic] with Van Hool’s former customers.’

Things may be difficult for Van Hool UK, based in Wellingborough. The ‘curator’ [receiver] has told Van Hool staff: ‘It is indeed the case that VDL will not be taking over Van Hool UK.

‘The receivers had a brief encounter with another potential candidate expressing his interest in Van Hool UK, but we have not heard from him again.

‘We are currently looking into the possibility of liquidating the entity, however this does not seem to be easy under UK Law due to the fact that both directors have resigned and are not willing to cooperate any more.’

Among vehicles ‘stranded’ in Van Hool factories are those from operators across Europe, and B&CB believes the 24-metre electric artics being built jointly by Van Hool, Alstholm and Keipe Electric, which were expected to be available for this year’s Olympics.

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