Vehicle Development Group International
Vehicle Development Group International (VDGI) is a new company with has been in the automotive industry for 35 years. It was during the recent economic downturn—which arguably hit the automotive sector the hardest—that VDGI developed an innovative new business model specifically for custom police vehicle integration. President Lyman Maynard spoke with the Canadian Business Journal about this business model and why it is so important in the police fleet market.
Ontario is the capital of police vehicle manufacturing in North America. For many years, the primary choice of vehicles for police departments has been the Ford Crown Victoria, a model produced only in a manufacturing plant in St. Thomas, Ontario. What people often don’t realize, Maynard explains, is that police fleets require extensive modifications on vehicles—it is not as simple as taking them from the assembly line.
“We are focused on first responder and law enforcement vehicles,” Maynard states. “So all the side lights, sounds, consoles, storage devices for all the equipment that goes in such as guns, ammunition, flares, fire extinguishers—all of those things that they have to have as an inventory as they role onto the scene.” The modifications required by police fleet vehicles are quite extensive, and heavily regulated. It was here that VDGI saw the opportunity to provide the necessary facilities for first responder vehicle modifications.
Vehicle integration facilities
VDGI has created a system that seamlessly integrates the necessary police fleet modifications so that there is no down time and vehicles arrive fully equipped and ready to go. VDGI approached the major OEMs in Ontario and created an invoice delivery system ensuring the accuracy and traceability of all modifications.
“Most garages servicing big agencies are small mom and pop garages and cannot accommodate 300 or 400 vehicles, so this is the new business model of today,” Maynard explains. “We have a large enough facility to produce 90 vehicles at a time and hold three to four hundred at once.
“We add the end content that the fleet is looking for and put the vehicle back into the transportation system and it is shipped all over Canada, and the next code on the invoice is the actual dealer and then the transportation system would deliver the vehicle to that dealer to pick up.” This cost effective, turn-key process is a simple and easy way to eliminate the hassles experienced by police fleet purchases.
This means that police forces, rather than waiting for that six month time period, are able to get their fleets ready by using an integration facility large enough to accommodate those kinds of numbers. “It’s today’s economy—you go big or you go home,” says Maynard, giving an example of a contract that is looking at a larger fleet of 500 Dodge Chargers out of Brampton. “If we didn’t have enough facility for them they wouldn’t even be looking at us. They don’t want to risk sending those vehicles somewhere where they are not secure and they can’t get them fast enough.
“That’s the evolution of where we are today. You need a very large single facility with the ability to funnel the vehicle to any destination across Canada or North America.” VDGI are experts at providing this, and it is because of this niche market focus that VDGI has transformed itself and created an entirely new business model. VDGI has excellent relationships with the major OEMs in Canada, and are equipped to deal with every level of the supply chain. VDGI ensures customers that its team of highly experienced professionals are experts in the police fleet market. It maintains a high percentage of repeat business, a testament to its validity.
Police Performance Products (PPP)
The VDGI group of companies also has a product-based company, specifically focused on innovative solutions for the police vehicle market. As experts in this niche market, police forces can be assured that products are designed with police fleet requirements in mind, keeping an eye on the critical criteria and regulations that every police force must follow. VDGI’s experience with police fleets is a distinct competitive advantage, and it is highly aware of the unique problems and situations of the police officer. “One of the things we are strong in is creating new products that create a value-add,” says Maynard with pride.
Growth and expansion
VDGI has intuitively changed its business model with the changing economic times, and is prepared to continue to shift in a way that better serves its valued customers. VDGI is looking to open up a new vehicle integration facility in Chicago as part of its continued expansion across North America. “You have to be within a reasonable distance of the manufacturing facility, and the vehicle is going out of production in Canada,” Maynard explains. VDGI has longstanding relationships with the assembly facilities in Ontario, but there are restrictions for those manufactured in the U.S. “It’s location, location, location at the end of the day.”
Vehicle Development Group International has navigated its way through a volatile marketplace to find an important and rewarding niche. Its presence in the police fleet market is sure to continue for many years to come.