Ambulance chasers are no bother for Collins Industries. Founded in 1971, the company is a US manufacturer of ambulances and specialty vehicles, such as small school buses, shuttle and midsized vans, and terminal trucks (used to move trailers and containers in warehouses). Collins also makes commercial bus chassis, industrial sweepers, and road construction equipment. It has a distribution network of about 70 dealers in the US and Canada. Collins markets its products under brand names, including Capacity, Collins Bus, Wheeled Coach, and World Trans. It is part of Allied Specialty Vehicles (ASV), the largest maker of ambulances in North America, which is owned by private-equity firm American Industrial Partners.
ASV took shape in late 2010 following American Industrial Partner's (AIP) earlier acquisition of Collins from BNS Holding (which itself was part of a fund held by AIP and Steel Partners Holdings). Collins was combined with several other portfolio companies owned by AIP: E-ONE, Halcore Group, and Fleetwood RV, formerly part of Fleetwood Enterprises.
Operating as ASV, the group generates annual revenue of about $1 billion via operations in three core business segments: fire and emergency, RVs, and commercial (mostly buses). Collins continues to build vehicles to customer specifications from a set of company-supplied options. The company's position enables it to capture jobs too complex for small-job assemblers, but too small for rivals with mass-production assembly lines. For example, in mid-2010 it began production of the first Type-A small school bus to be powered by propane, NexBus. The bus engine, developed in partnership with Texas-based CleanFUEL USA, received certification from the EPA and the California Air Resources Board.