Ambucraft Services Ltd.

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Ambucraft Services Ltd.

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        Peter (Funk) Adsten was born and raised on a farm at Hague, Saskatchewan. After high school, Adsten worked at Ray's Ambulance in Saskatoon then Universal Ambulance in Calgary. Adsten and Ken Sawatsky operated Crescent Ambulance Service in Saskatoon starting in 1971. During this time they also began manufacturing ambulances, first for their own service, then for a few other Saskatchewan ambulance services.

        In 1975, together with their accountant Eldon Heppner, they incorporated Crestline Coach Ltd. for the purpose of manufacturing ambulances and specialty vehicles. The following year they sold their ambulance service in order to devote all resources to the manufacture of ambulances and specialty vehicles. Ronn Janzen joined as a shareholder in 1978. By 1980, Crestline relocated into a larger manufacturing facility in Saskatoon, though their target market included Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

        The goal at Crestline was to achieve 100% of the ambulance manufacturing market in the three Prairie Provinces but they faced stiff competition in the Alberta marketplace from Ambucraft Ltd., located in Innisfail, Alberta. In 1983 the four Crestline Coach Ltd. shareholders formed holding companies and purchased the assets of Ambucraft Ltd. A new Alberta corporation, Ambucraft Services Ltd. (ASL), was formed and headquartered in Edmonton. Shaun Frances, one of the salespeople at Crestline, relocated to Edmonton and became the President and General Manager of the new company. Crestline and Ambucraft co-operated with each other behind the scenes while competing aggressively against each other in the Alberta and Yukon ambulance market. In 1985, the shareholders notified their Alberta ambulance customers that they did in fact own Ambucraft.

        ASL manufactured some of their own ambulances and, in an effort to keep Sentinel, from Cambridge ON, and Tri-Star, from Yarmouth, NS, from setting up a division in Alberta, also distributed products from those companies. ASL became a distributor for Collins Ambulances in Kansas to satisfy Alberta customers who wanted a US manufactured ambulance. They also supplied paratransit and shuttle buses, purchasing these vehicles from Sentinel and from Goshen Coach in Elkhart, Indiana.

        In 1988 Shawn Francis relocated to Langley BC and formed Dynamic Specialty Vehicles Ltd. in partnership with the Crestline group of shareholders. Dynamic sold Crestline manufactured ambulances to the BC Government and also distributed Goshen buses to customers in BC.

        ASL's organizational structure was fairly flat, with one General Manager and then the rest of the staff. Staff at ASL usually numbered about 12, with half in sales and administration, and half in manufacturing. After Shaun Francis left for BC, a Management Team consisting of senior staff from ASL was put in place. This arrangement was unsatisfactory so Tim Morrow from Crestline relocated to ASL to become the General Manager.

        Ambucraft was wound down in 1994 in response to a crisis in the Canadian ambulance manufacturing industry. The introduction of Ford diesel engines, which lasted much longer than the previous gasoline engines, and the rationalization of provincial health budgets, which temporarily curbed the purchase of new ambulances, left too many manufacturers chasing too few sales. These issues resulted in price wars and a survival of the fittest environment. After ASL was closed, Alberta ambulance and bus sales were routed through Crestline in order to prop up that company. Peter Adsten, Ken Sawatsky, and Ronn Janzen sold their shares in Crestline in November 2004.

        Buying Ambucraft in 1983 had been a successful business strategy for Crestline. They were able to capture a majority of the Alberta ambulance market, a portion of the small bus market, and had served their Alberta customers well. In total, Ambucraft sold 800 new and used vehicles from 1983 to 1994.


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