On February 1, 2020, REV completed the sale of Spartan ER from Spartan Motors, making the official announcement on February 3. Dan Peters, president of the REV Fire Group, spoke with Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment Editor Chris Mc Loone about the acquisition.
With an acquisition like this, current customers of the acquired company will often wonder what changes might come along with being owned by a new company. Peters suggests that the way to look at it is not necessarily to look at potential changes, but to building on the legacy of an established brand. “The best thing for people to think about is that back when we acquired KME and followed that up with the acquisition of Ferrara, we talked a lot about the quality and the value that these brands have,” says Peters. “When we look at Spartan, we see a tremendous chassis that’s been built for a long time. It’s been used in the fire service for a long time and used by a lot of the OEMs. To think that there are a lot of changes that need to take place is not the way to look at it. I think what’s important is that we want to build on the legacy that Spartan has created in the market. We want to build upon the brands that make up that group. Certainly, we have a lot of respect for the Smeal brand and the Ladder Tower brand in particular. Our objective is to build on that legacy and take what they’ve created in the fire industry and take it to the next level in terms of our ability to provide aftermarket support and focus on the entire transaction with the customer.”
With the Spartan ER acquisition, the REV Fire Group now has an expanded aerial offering by virtue of Spartan ER Smeal and Ladder Tower Company (LTC) brands. Peters says, “It’s a key area as we look at the combination of the brands. Certainly, the aerial market is an area that we emphasize with our dealers and an area that we focus on with our existing three brands. We think the addition of Smeal and LTC gives us a really nice position when we start talking to customers about solutions for their aerial needs.”
Peters also says that Ferrara and Smeal will reestablish their relationship regarding aerials. “There’s certainly a long history between Smeal and Ferrara, so we’re excited to have that relationship be rekindled if you will,” he says. “Ferrara will go back to having Smeal provide their aerial devices for their customers. We think between the five aerial offerings that we have a diverse portfolio to offer all the municipalities.”
Following the February 4 announcement, the REV Fire Group has expanded its brand offering. According to Peters, the benefit to customers comes not so much from being able to offer the multiple brands, but from REV’s support of the dealer networks that stand behind the brands. “When you look at the Spartan/Smeal network of dealers, we pick up relationships with 29 dealers that serve those brands across north America. The benefit to the customer is as we stand those dealer networks with our aftermarket support capabilities, our ecommerce site, and the financial strength of REV, the benefit is the support and what we’re able to provide to the dealers as they offer the brands to the customer.”
When you own three apparatus brands and add four more (Spartan ER, Smeal, UST, and LTC) the prevailing thought is that there will likely be crossover among the end products of those brands, but according to Peters, thus far the feedback has been not of where brands intersect but how to take the opportunity to strengthen the REV Fire Group’s market share. “When you take the 29 dealers that we acquired through the acquisition and lay them on a map over our existing E-ONE, KME, and Ferrara dealer networks, it’s quite surprising how little overlap there actually is,” says Peters. “I spent parts of [February 3] talking to with all our separate dealer networks, and the feedback is it’s an opportunity for us to strengthen our market share. I don’t’ see there being a lot of crossover as we bring the brands into the family.”
Walk any trade show floor and you will see many fire apparatus built on Spartan cabs/chassis. The chassis business is an important one to Spartan ER, and the REV Fire Group will continue making those chassis available to the more than 40 OEMs that build on them. “When you look at what we acquired, part of that is the Spartan chassis business,” says Peters. “About half the chassis they built last year in Charlotte went to the 40+ OEMs that they do business with. We see that as a very important part of the business. We see a great opportunity to expand in that area where it makes sense strategically. We also see a great opportunity on the aftermarket parts side of the business. So as I mentioned earlier, I spoke with all the dealers yesterday and also spoke with all the OEMs and gave them our reassurance that our plan is to continue to provide product to them as their needs occurred.”
According to Peters, the most important aspect of the February 3 announcement is the excitement level at the REV Fire Group. “The most important thing is how excited we are,” he says. “We see this as a very strategic opportunity in a market we have a lot of respect for, a market that we really like being in. We see there are opportunities to not only strengthen our position in fire, but we believe there will be some crossover opportunities for our sister companies on the ambulance side as we acquire relationships with new municipalities that we haven’t had on either the fire or ambulance side. We think it’s a great fit for our fire business but also a great addition to the whole REV portfolio.”
CHRIS Mc LOONE, senior editor of Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment, is a 26-year veteran of the fire service currently serving as a safety officer and is a former assistant chief with Weldon Fire Company (Glenside, PA). He has served on past apparatus and equipment purchasing committees. He has also held engineering officer positions, where he was responsible for apparatus maintenance and inspection. He has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years.