Thomas (Thomas Built Buses), Autobus Leeds Transit (IC Bus) and Girardin (Blue Bird). “Maintaining business and the after-sales service

offered by all distributors is essential and even critical to the reliability and daily deployment of school transpor- tation in Quebec,” he explained. “For the Girardin team, it is clear that the successful rollout of the government’s new electrification plan must be based on the collabora- tion of all manufacturers and distributors…to maintain a reliable and safe student service and to enable Quebec and its carriers to spread across North America.” He noted that A. Girardin will continue to influence

government authorities to amend certain terms of the program and eliminate what the company views as discriminatory requirements and restrictions toward the goal of free competition. “Presently, we agree to electrify every bus on the road,” he said. “The problem is to force the customer to buy buses specifically from one distributor, Lion [Electric Company]. We agree that free market competition is the way to do business.” Danault also proposed that the program should be

postponed until the end of this year or next year, to provide more time to transition from gas and propane engines to move 100 percent to electric. “The time frame is so short,” he said. “I don’t think this

is attainable because the market will not be able to adjust to this to get the buses on time for the beginning of the school season in September.” Steve Girardin, president of Micro Bird, concurred, noting that his company applauds Quebec’s initiative and significant investment to electrify school buses, but said that, “We believe the best way to electrify school buses will require a free and open market. “The program in its current format limits the choice

of manufacturers in favor of one brand/manufacturer while jeopardizing the existence of current school bus dealers and will threaten the reliability of the school transportation system,” he continued. Locking U.S. manufacturers out of the Quebec market and potentially closing their respective dealer net- works would most likely have significant impacts on student transportation services, Girardin added. “The truth of the matter is that approximately 0.1 per-

cent of school buses on the road will be electric by the end of this calendar year,” he explained. “The main challenge today is the technology’s inability to financially justify its total cost of ownership without significant and generous government grants. In order for electric school buses to evolve and succeed, customers and the industry must have the choice to experiment with different manufactur- ers, dealers, products, infrastructure, and services.”

In trying to mitigate the Ministry of Transportation’s

decision to include collaboration of all manufactur- ers and distributors, Girardin suggested that directing most of the electric school bus orders to a resident manufacturer is counterintuitive to a massive and rapid electrification strategy. “Micro Bird and Blue Bird will continue to collaborate

with government and advocate our primary goal: the reduction of greenhouse gases through the electrifica- tion of school buses in an open and fair market to all manufacturers and their dealers,” he said. In the meantime, Girardin said his company is en- couraging all OEMs and their respective dealers to use Quebec as a showcase market for electrification of school buses and to “resist and lobby against protection- ist measures in the school bus industry.” He advised that the OEMs continue to earn their business “by the merits and quality of their technology, products and services. “This is our best chance to succeed our transition to

a greener and reliable school transportation system,” he added. Meanwhile, the Lion Electric Company debuted as a

publicly traded company and began trading stocks on May 7 on the New York Stock Exchange and the Toronto Stock Exchange. The company also announced Joliet, Illinois, as the location of its new 900,000-square-foot production facility, for which it received a $7.9 million tax credit in return for $70 million in capital investments, according to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. The new facility represents the largest dedicated pro-

duction site for zero-emission medium and heavy-duty vehicles in the U.S. and Lion’s biggest footprint in the market, giving the company the ability to meet the increasing demand in the marketplace for ‘Made in America’ zero-emission vehicles, while bringing pro- duction closer to its customers, the company noted in its announcement. Lion Electric spokesman Brian Alexander said the

company declined to comment on other manufacturers’ concerns about the Quebec requirement on Canadian manufacturing, saying only that “Lion is in support of programs, which put more electric school buses on the roads today. More zero-emission buses now, means cleaner air for kids for generations to come.” But concerns over Quebec’s stipulation also focus on

job losses in Canada. “Many people are going to lose jobs not only at my

company, but at the other dealers,” contended Backholm at Autobus Leeds Transit. “There will be far more jobs lost in the short term than there will be created.” Steve Girardin agreed, saying that the new program 21

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