North American Bus Industries

North American Bus Industries
North American Bus Industries
Type Private
Industry Bus manufacturing
Founded 1989
Headquarters Anniston, Alabama
Products Buses
Owner(s) Cerberus Capital Management

North American Bus Industries, commonly known as NABI, is a major transit bus manufacturing company based in Anniston, Alabama. NABI was founded in 1992 when the Hungarian firm Ikarus Bus, a key bus supplier to Central, Eastern Europe, spun off a majority share of their American operations to American/Hungarian investors amid financial instabilities in the wake of the end of the Cold War.



NABI's history can be traced to the attempts of its former parent, Ikarus Coach, to enter the North American market. In 1980, Crown Coach entered an agreement with Ikarus to produce the model 286, an Americanized model 280 articulated bus under the Crown Ikarus name. After the venture with Crown ended in 1984, Ikarus entered an agreement with Orion to continue production of the 286 for the Canadian market as the Orion III. Regardless of name, the 286/Orion III was beset with a multitude of problems ranging from poor construction to inadequate build quality which played a role in Crown's demise in the US.

In the wake of the 286 problems, Ikarus regrouped and entered a deal with Union City Body Company of Union City, Indiana, to market and assemble a new bus for the American market. In 1989, Ikarus reentered the US market as Ikarus USA and introduced the model 416 (an Americanized model 415). The next year, Ikarus USA introduced the model 436, an articulated model of the 416. Though the company had modest success, the end of the Cold War led to a vast decline of Ikarus' European output and to a period of uneasiness at the company. These problems contributed to Union City Body Company declaring bankruptcy in 1992, in turn putting the future of Ikarus' US operations in doubt.

Amid these problems, Hungarian-born/US-residing investor Peter Rona, director of the First Hungary Fund Ltd of Jersey, United Kingdom, purchased 75% of Ikarus USA in mid-1992 with Ikarus retaining 25%. With the purchase came many changes, most significantly the name of the company to American Ikarus and the base of production from Union City to Anniston, Alabama.

Though American Ikarus was more successful than its predecessors, by the mid 1990s Ikarus decided that they wanted to leave the North American market given increased competition in Europe. In 1996, Ikarus sold their share of American Ikarus to the First Hungary Fund which took on the current NABI brand name and NABI Rt. corporate name upon closing. Subsequently, NABI expanded into the European market with the purchase of Optare in 2000 and is now a rival to its former parent.

With its independence, NABI began expanding its product line to gain a foothold in the then-fledgling low-floor bus market with the launch of the LFW series in 1997, NABI's first original model. The LFW series has been successful, in turn launching the Compobus series (2001), the BRT series (2004), and the expansion of the LFW series into articulated buses (2002).

On January 23, 2006, NABI Rt. announced [1] that it had a preliminary agreement with NABI Gyártó és Kereskedelmi Kft and Homerica Investments B.V. for the acquisition of all of the stock of NABI Inc. and substantially all of the business and assets of NABI Rt. NABI Inc. then announced [2] that the purchase was by affiliates of Cerberus Capital Management. The transaction was completed on February 15, 2006.[3] According to the August 4, 2006 Interim Report, the Hungarian company changed its name to Exbus Nyrt. and became an asset management company, and the current directors are endeavoring to preserve the equity and use the directors' experience in the capital markets.[4]

On August 21, 2006, NABI announced their purchase of the Wichita, Kansas-based Optima Bus Corporation for an undisclosed amount. This will add the popular Opus low-floor minibus and American Heritage replica streetcar (rubber-tired trackless) product lines to NABI's roster. One week later, it was announced that Cerberus had acquired Blue Bird Corporation, thus giving Cerberus a full line of school buses, and 30 to 60 foot transit buses.[5]

On June 6, 2007, it was announced that Optima Bus Corporation "would cease operations in Park City on Aug. 8 or shortly after." [6] Soon after, Blue-Bird stopped producing commercial buses. Both operations were moved to the existing NABI plant, except for the Commercial Express product line, which was sold.

In 2008, NABI updated the look of its 416 and 40LFW, adding a new style front and rear as well as optional frameless windows. The new style front is available on a special order only. The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada were the launch customers for the restyled low-floor model, with NJ Transit being launch customer for the high floor model.


NABI's method of production, dating back to the Ikarus USA/American Ikarus period, is split between plants in Hungary and Anniston in what is an outgrowth of "Buy America" requirements, which mandate buses purchased with government money have at least 60% of the bus built in the US. The shells for the buses are built in Hungary and are then shipped to Anniston for the installation of all other components. This method has had its advantages in lower costs of labor in Hungary vs. the US and Canada, however at times it has had its disadvantages (as can be seen in the section on the Compobus). The advantages of lower costs of shell assembly have been the main reason NABI has maintained the practice even after the 416/436 began to fall from favor and the LFW series became NABI's main product. However, the cost advantage eroded, due to an unfavorable foreign exchange ratio between the Hungarian forint and the U.S. dollar. The problems, leading to the sale of the company's assets, are described in the 2005 Annual Report. [7]

The Compobus

In 2001, NABI launched a new line called the Compobus, a revolutionary line which used a body built from composite fiberglass as opposed to the traditional steel. This model was also notable for being the first transit bus in North America to be available in a 45-foot length (model 45C-LFW) in addition to the standard 40-foot (model 40C-LFW). Though, on paper, the Compobus looked to be an eventual success and a standard setter for transit buses, the model instead floundered for a multitude of reasons including a lack of customers, financial losses stemming from shell production, the expiration of Buy America Act waivers, and an uneasiness from transit authorities to buy a non-steel bus. While these factors led to the discontinuance of the Compobus line in early 2005,[8] the Compobus was revived when Los Angeles County Metro approved the purchase of up to 260 from NABI,[9] now called the Metro 45C.[10] One was tested in Honolulu, Hawaii in early 2009.[11]



Model name Discontinued Length Photo Fuel and propulsion type Notes
40C-LFW CompoBus 2004 40 ft (12.19 m) LACMTA 7992.jpg Diesel, CNG LACMTA and Antelope Valley Transit Authority were the only buyers
30-LFN 2005 30 ft (9.14 m) NABI30LFN.jpg Diesel A badge engineered Optare Solo—Discontinued after NABI sold Optare
436 (60-SFW) 2008 60 ft (18.29 m) CAT NABI 436 530-564.JPG Diesel Last built in 2002 for SamTrans
60-LFW 2008 60 ft (18.29 m) CTA-articulated-bus.jpg Diesel Chicago Transit Authority was the lone buyer; these buses had a history of structural problems, noted since 2005, and CTA took them out of service on February 19, 2009,[12] subsequently retiring the fleet.[13]

Current products

Model name Length Width Photo Fuel and propulsion type
Standard floor
NABI 416 [14] 40 ft (12.19 m) 102 in (2.59 m) New Jersey Transit NABI 416 transit.jpg Diesel
Optima American
Heritage Streetcar
30 ft (9.14 m),
35 ft (10.67 m)
96 in (2.44 m) RIPTA Optima Bus American Heritage Streetcar 16.jpg CNG, Diesel, Propane
Low floor
NABI BRT [16] 37 ft (11.28 m),
42 ft (12.80 m),
60 ft (18.29 m),
65 ft (19.81 m)
102 in (2.59 m) Metro liner.jpg CNG, Diesel, Diesel-electric
Sirius [17] 37 ft (11.28 m),
42 ft (12.80 m),
60 ft (18.29 m),
65 ft (19.81 m)
102 in (2.59 m) 200px
CNG, Diesel (currently), Diesel-electric
Optima Opus[18] 30 ft (9.14 m),
35 ft (10.67 m)
99 in (2.51 m) RRTA Optima 127.jpg Diesel, Diesel-electric
NABI LFW [19] 31 ft (9.45 m),
35 ft (10.67 m),
40 ft (12.19 m)
102 in (2.59 m) CAT NABI Hybrid 2008.jpg CNG, Diesel, Diesel-electric, LNG
NABI Metro 45C [20] 45 ft (13.72 m) 102 in (2.59 m) LACMTA 8063.jpg CNG, Diesel, Diesel-electric, LNG
Blue Bird Ultra LF[21] 30 ft (9.14 m),
35 ft (10.67 m)
102 in (2.59 m) Milton Transit Bus 0804.jpg CNG, Diesel


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ "FY09 CAPITAL PROJECTS". Metro Operations Committee. February 21, 2009. Retrieved 2010-01-03. 
  10. ^ "Metro 45C Bus". North American Bus Industries. 
  11. ^]
  12. ^ WBBM-TV (February 19, 2009). "CTA Commuters Brace for Bus Shortfall". 
    "CTA Bus Customers May Encounter Challenges for Upcoming Rush Periods: Buses Will Remain Out of Service Until Inspected by Structural Expert" (Press release). CTA. February 19, 2009. 
  13. ^ "CTA unlikely to resume using accordion buses". Chicago Breaking News (Chicago Tribune). April 23, 2009. 
  14. ^ 416 model information
  15. ^ American Heritage Streetcar model information
  16. ^ BRT model information
  17. ^ [1]
  18. ^ Opus model information
  19. ^ LFW model information
  20. ^ Metro 45C model information
  21. ^ Blue Bird Ultra LF model information

External links

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