1974 - 1982: Progress in unfavourable times
The first stone of the new I.V.-factory was laid. Nine months later the construction was completed. This modern factory was built in spite of the imminent oil crisis, so that they would be ready as soon as the tide would turn.
The period from 1975 - 1980 was very important for product development. Van Hool’s policy of investing in high-tech productions and equipment was continued. Integral vehicle building, which was the logical continuation of the technological progress, based on self-supporting Van Hool structures with Fiat components, was central to the development strategy. As an independent bus manufacturer, Van Hool was free to select the most suitable mechanical components.
On 01/01/1976: The Misstraat was renamed into the Bernard Van Hoolstraat as a mark of honour for the founder of the Van Hool factory.,Due to the economic crisis, the production figures of 12 units a day in the I.V.-department dropped to one or two. Van Hool diversified into other industrial projects and started building water purification and filter units, off-shore equipment, water tanks and so on. The many petrodollars that were flowing to the oil exporting countries opened up opportunities in Syria, Tunisia, Iran and Iraq. The orders Van Hool received from these countries were often the result of the excellent relations Van Hool maintained with chassis manufacturers.,The pvba Van Hool & Zonen was converted into the limited liability company, "Van Hool NV", keeping the same family capital structure.,The coachwork factory in Zaragoza had an average annual production of 500 units. Thanks to its privileged commercial ties with the Maghreb countries, the Spanish-speaking South American countries, and the Middle East, the factory was mainly working for export.
Van Hool presented its first integral city bus, the A120, with different driveline options. Thanks to the modular concept, the basic model could be used both as a city and an intercity bus. This bus was built until the end of 1991. 2,500 buses of this type had been built – a real success story!
Van Hool decided to terminate all Van Hool-McArdle activities. Orders for Irish and British operators were carried out in the Van Hool factory in Zaragoza.,Deliveries to Belgian municipal transport companies and the “Buurtspoorwegen” (Belgian Regional Railways) enabled Van Hool to establish a more evenly balanced annual production. Gradually, interest in a Belgian bus concept grew and with it the need to lay down standards. In 1980, the Belgian “Uniform Tender Requirements” became a fact.,At the Paris Fair Van Hool’s new coachwork design, the Alizée, was presented. The new coachwork line was a complete success and confirmed Van Hool’s position as Europe’s most important coachwork manufacturer.
The new integral coach was officially presented at the Brussels exhibition: "the T8", an integral luxury coach with Alizée styling.,Within two years, Van Hool had made an important breakthrough in both the bus and the coach sectors. Van Hool had confirmed itself as a skilled constructor of integral vehicles and laid the foundation for a remarkable evolution. A whole range vehicles was built around the two basic concepts.,Oct. 1979: In only 6 months’ time, 500 Alizées had already been sold! The eye-catcher at the Kortrijk Coach and Bus Fair was the Acron, a type designation for an Alizée model with a high panoramic windscreen. The Acron became the best selling coach Van Hool ever manufactured and is still popular because of its reliability, driving qualities and economical operating costs. Up to 1997, 1,800 units have been sold.
Van Hool presented the articulated AG280 bus. The greatest technological innovation was the location of a vertical engine at the left in the wheelbase of the traction unit. This articulated bus turned out to be a success in Belgium and abroad.,Van Hool launched its midi-buses, AU141 and AU138, a completely innovative concept. Together with the A280, this smaller and narrower city bus, which also has a vertical engine, mounted on the nearside between both axles, laid the foundation for the future development of the low-floor concept. France and Algeria were at the top of the list of interested parties.,Despite the economic recession, the industrial vehicle factory was buzzing with technological activity. Thorough product standardisation and an increased industrial capacity meant sizeable orders could be carried out within specified time limits. However, behind closed doors, they were working on a new product, the tank container. Aluminium and stainless steel prototypes of this tank container were submitted to the most rigorous of tests. The breakthrough of inter-modal transport was imminent. Van Hool was acquiring vast experience and establishing a competitive lead in this field. In the nineties, it would make Van Hool one of the world’s leading manufacturers of this new product.
Van Hool launched its very first tank container, the beginning of a success story.,The various markets responded very differently to economic fluctuations. Due to its coachwork activities, Van Hool managed to reach far-off developing countries such as Nigeria, Angola and the Middle East. The industrial vehicle factory found markets in Europe (France, the Netherlands, Germany) and far beyond (Angola, Dubai, Laos, Iraq,…).,After the private market slowed down, the Belgian government also stopped placing orders. This could only be recovered by developing export markets even more. As an integral vehicle manufacturer, Van Hool was concentrating most of its efforts on countries such as France, the Netherlands and Spain. At the same time, Van Hool held on to its tradition as a strong niche manufacturer, responding to every opportunity that presented itself.,The long-standing co-operation agreement with the Fiat truck division came to an end. It strengthened Van Hool’s independence. Approximately 10,000 Van Hool buses and coaches had been built using Fiat mechanical packages.
The first coaches (double-deckers) were delivered to Japan. A total of some dozens of units were delivered. In 1984, an order for 10 midi city buses were built for the world exhibition in Nagoya.