Seating

miniplus June issue 31

seating There is more to minibus seating than meets the eye, and it takes a lot to come up with the products that the market wants. We visit Phoenix Seating to look at its successes 36 | June 2017 | miniplus.co.uk Minibus seating is one of Phoenix Seating’s core markets Building a business from a broad base There has been much upheaval in the world of minibus seats over the past decade, and one name to have come out on top is Phoenix Seating. Now the UK’s largest manufacturer of passenger seats, it turns out over 30,000 per year from its Kingswinford base, with many going to the accessible sector. Phoenix celebrated its 15th birthday in January. “Early days were hard going, both financially and technically,” says Sales and Commercial Director Sara Tarrant. “But we persevered and carried on, and it has been onwards and upwards from there.” At the start, Phoenix had two products: A high-back seat complemented by a semihigh back model. Both were designed and built in-house, a method of creation and production that continues today. An early stroke of luck was becoming involved with bus builder Optare, which was productionising the Alero minibus. That led Phoenix to develop the Blenheim seat. The Blenheim remains the backbone of its range, and it continues to record increased year-onyear sales. “The Blenheim is a mid-range seat that can be described as a stylish workhorse,” says Finance and Purchasing Director Adrian Melia, who adds that the Blenheim and five other established products – including tip-up and fold-away seats – are complemented by custom-made models. “In every range of seats that we produce, there are practically endless variations. That gives us an advantage over larger manufacturers because we can deal with both small and large batches while still delivering on a short lead time. The latter was one of our strengths when we began and it remains so today.” Early innovations Phoenix offers both aluminium- and steelframed seats to a multitude of sectors from ambulance and police vehicles to wheelchairaccessible vehicles, taxis and minibuses. Each is fully type approved with all testing undertaken in the UK. Introduction of the aluminium option in 2008 was another turning point, and at that time it gave a huge saving in weight over steel framing. Things have moved on since then, and development of the steel product means that the weight difference between the two is now negligible. “Convertors have been consistently challenging seat manufacturers to remove weight for a long time, and legislation changes have also been a key driver,” says Adrian. “We have come to learn what bodybuilders and convertors expect as we work closely with the industry and we have built excellent Tim Deakin Editor


miniplus June issue 31
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