1983 - 1990: Growth from recession to recession
The first apron bus was delivered to Sabena. In 1984 the delivery of 22 huge apron buses to Milan meant a big breakthrough for this product range. Since then, Van Hool apron buses have been servicing dozens of airports all over the world.
The Bangkok matter: In co-operation with Volvo, Van Hool put together a comprehensive package for thousands of buses, various workshops, and personnel training. Jointly with the support of Belgian institutions, the Van Hool-Volvo project was chosen. An agreement was reached some years later for the delivery of 300 articulated buses, only for it to be unilaterally broken some days later.,In may, Civil engineer, Leon Van Hool, responsible for product development and overseas marketing, passed unexpectedly at the age of 47. His most important goals were a market and customer-orientated approach, the development of technologically, innovative products (T8), the further development of Van Hool as an independent bus manufacturer. By automating and rationalising the production process, he not only wanted to reinforce Van Hool and its competitive position, but also improve the quality of the product.
The first 10 integral T8 motor coaches were shipped to the USA, a modest start for what would become a real success story.,Van Hool’s 18 meters long, articulated “Jumbulance” was mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records. It was and still is the largest ambulance in the world, built for the British charity ACROSS.
At the UITP-Congress in Brussels the low floor bus A500 was launched. Van Hool was the first constructor to succeed in building a bus with a low floor in total length. It followed a different trend on styling.,Meanwhile, modifications were being made to the T8 integral coaches, which had developed into an extremely versatile range. The Alizée coachwork was re-designed and made to look even more attractive.,For reasons of profitability, customers were demanding more volume and less weight.,CAD-CAM technology (computer-aided design, linked to computer-aided manufacturing) became essential. Design and manufacture would take less time. The application of AQAP-quality standards (Allied Quality Assurance Publications) improved the general integration of development, production, sales and after-sales.,Modern offices completed the factory infrastructure and a start was made to modernise and automate the equipment in the industrial vehicle factory. Rationalisation and standardisation resulted in a design and production cost reduction and enabled a capacity for 20 vehicles per day. However, continually changing regulations, protectionist measures and changes in weight demanded a great deal of flexibility from manufacturers. Moreover, the market was showing an increase in scale.,=> some disputed tenders (MIVA, army),Result: delivery of 22 articulated city buses to Montréal (Van Hool became the first European manufacturer ever to deliver completely finished buses tot the protected North American public transport market) in 1990.,The economic revival had a favourable effect on the sales results of the industrial vehicle department. Figures increased to more than 2,000 vehicles a year. In all other countries, the bus market was dominated by national vehicle manufacturers. The European coach market was coming to a standstill.
Exclusive USA distribution agreement with ABC Bus Companies, Inc. in Florida,. Van Hool would break all record for imported makes in the space of a few years.
Delivery of 200th Van Hool coach for the United States.
Van Hool expanded the industrial vehicle factory with a parts warehouse for product support and a 2,000 sq m office complex. A new 6,000 sq.m. assembly factory for Van Hool underframes and a modern 4,000 sq m complex for the production administration were set up.,Almost all European constructors focused their attention on the European market. Van Hool decided to penetrate Switzerland and Italy.