By Bill Adams
There are two sides to every story. Spartan’s recent introduction of the FC-94 custom cab and chassis (https://spartaner.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Spartan-FC-94.pdf) initiated much discussion in the fire service and apparatus industry. Much was speculation and personal interpretation, including some biased comments by competitive vendors, possibly for questionable reasons.
Some interpreted that Spartan’s advertising vaguely inferred the FC-94 was just another entry-level rig to compete against commercial chassis. Advertising statements include, “This new custom chassis is within your reach” and it is “a custom chassis with commercial appeal” and “Meets the requirements of a commercial but delivers more.” Some in-the-field vendors have inferred the FC-94 is a stripped-down custom chassis addressing the commercial chassis market. Objective examination reveals the features and options in the FC-94’s brochure does not indicate so. Consequently, inferences against it are unfounded, unproven, and disingenuous.
It isn’t ethical for vendors in the field to disparage the introduction of any manufacturer’s new product. Printed media reporting is usually held to a level of truthfulness and integrity. However, commentators and pundits offering opinion often are not. We have forums to champion our views and are seldom challenged, but we should be.
Manufacturers are seldom able to defend themselves against unsubstantiated and biased comments affecting their business, but they should. As a result, Spartan Fire Chassis Sales Director Jeff Seal agreed to address my commentary and answer some direct questions about the FC-94’s introduction into the fire service.
Does Spartan recognize an “entry level” chassis?
Seal: No. Spartan does not consider any of our products to be entry-level. We believe there are no “entry-level” fire departments, thus, no “entry-level” products. In an industry where every department faces a unique set of response needs and challenges, it is our job as a manufacturer to deliver a purpose-built cab and chassis that delivers the reliability, safety, and performance they need. There are several factors that determine a department’s requirements, such as the infrastructure of their community, department size, fleet composition, geographical location, and budget. At Spartan Fire Chassis, we’ve made it our mission to help departments by delivering products that meet their needs and serve their communities.
What segment of the market does the FC-94 specifically address?
Seal: The Spartan FC-94 offers a cost competitive, purpose-built solution for fire departments who have traditionally only considered a commercial chassis for their fleet. The FC-94 meets the requirements of a commercial chassis but delivers more in a custom cab and chassis that is truly designed and purpose-built for the fire service.
Firefighters and some dealers believe they have an inherent right (!) to “change” any standardized apparatus design or program. Are the options listed in the FC-94’s brochure “cast-in-concrete”?
Seal: It’s human nature to want things the way you want them. For over 45 years, Spartan Fire Chassis has been known as a fire truck chassis manufacturer, and customers understand our capabilities when it comes to customization. The options available on the FC-94 are specific with a purpose to appeal to those who traditionally can only consider a commercial chassis. As a result, the option content aligns with that of a commercial chassis, but departments are getting more in a custom chassis configuration that is specifically designed for the fire service with fire truck options. In other words, what is standard on the FC-94 is equal to the standard of a commercial configuration. However, the FC-94 is a purpose-built emergency service chassis that offers more interior crew space, greater headroom, better entry and egress, multiple seat and storage options, and superior maneuverability. For customers who desire an even more fully customized cab and chassis, the Spartan Metro Star and Gladiator are the perfect solutions.
If the FC-94 is available to all REV Group manufacturers original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), are the REV companies getting a “second lick at the ice cream cone” at the expense of heretofore faithful Spartan chassis purchasers? And, is that creating additional competition for the smaller apparatus OEMs that have only sold the Spartan product?
Seal: Spartan Fire Chassis has always partnered with a broad group of OEMs in the industry to offer departments a unique combination of solutions. The FC-94 is also available to the REV Fire family of brands and their dealer networks. Our approach is similar to that of a commercial chassis supplier; we are giving customers access to the FC-94 as an alternative solution through their preferred channel. We believe that fire departments build relationships with their local dealership and preferred OEM, which leads to a successful build and product that will meet their needs. The FC-94 provides a great alternative to the those who traditionally may have only been able to consider a commercial chassis builder.
Will the FC-94 be available to competitive OEMs that manufacture their own custom chassis?
Seal: The Spartan FC-94 is available to existing authorized OEM partners and the REV Fire family of brands. This represents in excess of 40 different builders of apparatus.
Is the FC-94 cab the same cab as the Metro Star albeit with a limited number of popular options?
Seal: The FC-94 is engineered and purpose-built for the fire service vocation. It is built on the same reliable foundation as other Spartan Fire Chassis products and proven to handle the demands of the job. The FC-94 is packaged in a way that offers an ideal or optimal alternative to what is commercially available from chassis builders that serve multiple vocational markets such as freight, beverage delivery, and refuse.
What different seat offerings are available on the FC-94?
Seal: The four-door model offers several different seat configurations from four  all the way up to six  seats while still providing ample room for items such as EMS compartments within the crew area.
What type of bumper options are available?
Seal: The FC-94 is available in a six- or 24-inch front bumper extension with several different options for aprons, Q2B sirens, air horns, hose wells, front suction, and front discharge, to name a few. These custom options are completed at the time of the build and do not require modifications by the body builder which is not the case in a typical commercial chassis.
Does the FC-94 offer a better turn radius than a commercial?
Seal: Yes. The turn radius of the Spartan FC-94 is better than a commercial due to the axles, cramp angles, and position of the front axle. These three factors combined accomplish a significantly better turning radius than a conventional cab and chassis.
Some readers may not realize is Spartan is no longer a standalone manufacturer but is part of a larger corporate entity of multiple emergency vehicle manufacturers. Do you want to elaborate?
Seal: In February of 2020, the Emergency Response division of Spartan Motors was acquired by REV group, joining REV’s Fire and Emergency segment. The acquisition included all fire apparatus and fire chassis product lines and brands. Forty-five years ago, Spartan was founded on providing high-quality custom apparatus to departments and communities around the world and that remains true today. Spartan Emergency Response (ER) and Spartan Fire Chassis are specific businesses/manufacturers and brands that remain readily available to the global fire service.
How does the price of the FC-94 compare to a commercial chassis?
Seal: The FC-94 is very competitively priced with a commercial chassis-style apparatus but includes all the benefits of a purpose-built emergency vehicle with added safety, value, and functionality. Each offers its own unique set of options to its customer and dealer base.
BILL ADAMS is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment Editorial Advisory Board, a former fire apparatus salesman, and a past chief of the East Rochester (NY) Fire Department. He has 50 years of experience in the volunteer fire service.