Van Hool collapses – ‘What remains now is the memory’

Belgian manufacturer enters bankruptcy, with 1,600 job losses

Belgian manufacturer Van Hool has entered bankruptcy, creating around 1,600 job losses.

VDL has made a binding offer to take on the bus and coach manufacturing aspect of Van Hool, while GRW (a partner company of German company Schmitz Cargobull) is to take over the trailer building business. The move is expected to see from 650 to 950 jobs out of a total of 2,500 saved as a result.

The process was intensive, according to Van Hool, facing high pressure due to the absence of a solution to the Van Hool family inheritance situation, given the company’s liquidity position.

Marc Zwaaneveld, co-CEO at Van Hool, said: “Both VDL Groep and GRW, made it clear in their acquisition bids that they highly value the expertise and experience of Van Hool and its employees in the field of buses, coaches, and industrial vehicles. We are pleased that these two strong international companies will each integrate a part of the Van Hool Group. In the initial phase, employment is foreseen for 650 to 950 employees, a workforce that can grow in the long term. Exact numbers will be announced in the coming weeks by the two acquirers.”

It seems unlikely that the VDL Groep offer, if accepted, will see manufacturing continue at Koningshooikt near Antwerp, VDL having just opened a new factory at Roeselare in Belgium. The fate of the North Macedonia plant remains in the balance, although it was in the early stages of tooling to build the newly-designed T range of coaches and currently produces the EX range.

“It’s where we’ve poured our hearts into, where we’ve taken immense pride. What remains now is the memory” – Dirk Snauwaert, Communications Manager at Van Hool

In an emotional post on social media, Dirk Snauwaert, Communications Manager at Van Hool, said: “It has happened. The Van Hool-flag may be lowered! Yesterday, alongside nearly 2,500 colleagues, I received the definitive news that ‘our’ Van Hool is coming to an end. It’s where we’ve poured our hearts into, where we’ve taken immense pride. What remains now is the memory.

“Yet the words of founder Bernard Van Hool from our iconic company continue to echo: ‘Building is my life, continuing to build is your task. The road is ahead.’

“That’s what each of us must do now. To my many fantastic, dedicated colleagues, I wish you all the success in your search for a new professional journey. For some, there may be a nice future awaiting with the acquirers of the company. Rather sooner than later. To all involved: what is happening now with Van Hool is by no means a reflection of the dedication, loyalty, and teamwork of the members of #teamvanhool! To these members, my colleagues: stay strong.”

Trade unions representing Van Hool employees expressed their disappointment at the turn of events, quoted in the press as claiming the Van Hool family was not putting itself in the service of the company.

B&CB has contacted VDL and Schmitz Cargobull for comment.


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