Conversion bus shells, which traditionally have represented 10% to 15% of the commercial bus market, have declined in market share since a high point of 20.4% in 2004 to a total of 64 conversion shells in 2011 for a total of 4.0% of the U.S. bus market, according to National Bus Trader’s (NBT) March issue.

“It is interesting that while conversion shells dropped to 11.8% of the market in 2006,” says NBT, “they rebounded to 14.2% in 2007 with 309 coaches. Then the market share fell again in 2008 when the number of conversion shells declined to 195 coaches, representing only 9.7% of the total market. Figures for 2009 saw a further decline to 73 coaches and a market share of only 4.4%.

“Several people have suggested that a major reason for the decline in conversion shells may be concerns over the price of fuel,” the bus industry trade journal added. “When diesel fuel approached $5 per gallon, the cost of moving a converted coach around started getting expensive, possibly too expensive for some people.”

Meanwhile, refurbishing older conversion and commercial coaches, the latter of which is a real growth element in the southern Elkhart County, Ind., community of Nappanee, has been gaining favor.

“Our understanding is that while new conversion shell sales are down, doing work on refurbishing older conversions is up,” says NBT. “One would have to suggest that the conversion market has taken the same turn as the seated coach market with greater emphasis on refurbishing and pre-owned.”