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Q&A


Continental Shift Underway Zonar CEO & President Ian McKerlich explains economies of scale, expanded reach resulting from last year’s acquisition by Continental AG


S


chool Transportation News: What common questions are customers asking about the ac- quisition and how it will not only affect Zonar but their local operations?


McKerlich: Te most common question I get is:


‘What kind of company is Continental?’ Some people may think Continental is only a tire company, but it’s actually a well-established automotive and commer- cial vehicle technology company. In fact, a large part of their revenue is generated outside of their tire and consumer businesses.“What are you doing with a tire company?” is another common question. Te simple answer is they have great distribution and technology. We are continuing our relationship with Daimler Trucks of North America, which includes Tomas Built Buses and gives us two fantastic and established principle shareowners. We will continue to implement customer ideas and anticipate working closely with Continental to develop even more innovative products for the market, strengthening our ability to directly address customer needs, and implementing solutions that directly address their problems. In terms of our local operations, we ex- pect to continue to grow and operate as an independent entity within the Continental family.


STN: Kevin Mest, Zonar’s senior VP and GM of passenger services, recently told us that Continental’s resources will allow you to bring more solutions to the market. What kinds of trends are you identifying as potential targets? McKerlich: I was fortunate enough to have met with Continental before their investment in Zonar, and I’m still meeting with new people there today. I see a lot of potential around camera and sensor technologies within the school bus market. We’re exploring technology that could not only monitor what goes on inside the bus but also keep track of the perimeter of the bus and what is going on in the adjacent areas. Tis will be especially im- portant as more districts and states consider legislature to protect passengers on school buses. Another trend we’re watching more closely because of Continental’s estab- lished market presence in tires is connected solutions for monitoring tire pressure. Continental has very innova- tive technology for tire pressure that we think we may be able to tap into down the road. Lastly, Continental has significant market share as an OEM with dozens of com-


40 School Transportation News • MAY 2017


ponents within buses, commercial vehicles and passenger cars. We’ll leverage what we learn to develop products that will benefit our school bus fleet customers.


STN: How is Zonar integrating Continental’s econo- mies of scale and technologies with those of Daimler? McKerlich: While we have a collaborative and


productive relationship with both companies, the things that we work on with Continental and Daimler are separate, proprietary and confidential to each compa- ny. Tey are both shareholders and partners but there isn’t as much overlap between the two companies with Zonar is it may seem. What is exciting is that they are both great board members and have incredible programs that encourage and enable our delivery of innovative offerings to the market. Just recently, Zonar was awarded by Daimler an Innovation Award in the category of com- mercial vehicles and buses.


STN: How is the Zonar Connect tablet coming along in terms of adoption by school bus operators? McKerlich: We’ve seen a lot of interest from the school bus market in the Connect’s predecessor, the 2020 tablet. With Connect, which is just hitting the market now, we expect even bigger adoption. In addition to the tablets, there has also been a lot of interest in our existing applications to help school bus operators, man- age their fleets, drivers and passengers more effectively. Te driving force behind the interest and adoption of the tablets is about the ability to have an interactive console that school bus fleet managers and drivers can utilize to be more efficient—whether it’s driving the right route, driver coaching or managing ridership. Plus, the Connect and 2020 are both mobile devices equipped with our Electronic Verified Inspection Reporting (EVIR) solution which can be used for pre- and post-trip inspections, including scanning a tag in the back of the bus to ensure that a child check has occurred.


STN: With so much data flowing into and out of the school bus, how is the average school district expected to make sense of it all? McKerlich: Te amount of data flowing in and out of the bus is only going to grow as time goes on and as more innovation enters the industry with things like the Connect tablet and the applications mentioned previ-


CELEBRATING25YEARS


Ian McKerlich, Zonar CEO & President


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