This summer, Mistral Group will be celebrating its thirtieth year of business. From its roots as a small-scale Cheshire bus operator, the business has grown into a nationally recognised market leading brand in the industry, offering financing, rental and sales of new and used buses to a wide range of clients across the UK.

Through a strategy of consistent year on year growth, combined with a strong depth of knowledge and industry expertise, Mistral has remained at the forefront of the market, managing the challenges presented by the recent pandemic and now looking to move forward dynamically towards the rapidly developing industry changes.

Mistral pride themselves on a culture of customer service, repeat business and a wide-ranging offering designed to assist their nationwide customer base with all their fleet upgrade needs.

Looking into the near future, and especially towards the era of zero-emission technology, the team at Mistral are excited to be able to spearhead a new generation of products, embracing every innovation as they look towards an evolving market of alternative fuels, electric and hydrogen buses.

Steve Low, Group Managing Director, comments:

“It’s been an absolute pleasure to see the business grow and develop to the level that it is at now. The industry in which we operate has undergone considerable change and it has been vital that we have kept up with the speed of innovation that has been experienced. Now more than ever we are on the cusp of another wave of change with the move towards a net zero transport system, and once again we are looking to lead the way in finding innovative ways to get this technology cost effectively into the hands of operators around the country.”

Adds Martyn Bellis, Sales Director:

 “When I re-joined Mistral in late 2021 it was clear that there had been significant growth & development since I last worked for the business some 8 years earlier, I’m excited to be part of the on-going evolution of the business as it transitions with the industry to zero emission, we grow our rental fleet, continue to support customers with rental & asset finance solutions, and diversify into new complimentary markets. The business benefits from an enthusiastic & experienced sales & support team ready to take Mistral on to the next stage of its journey.”      

A Brief Look Into Mistral’s History:

1992 Thirty years ago Cheshire Bus & Coach Ltd (CBC) was founded as a side business to Starline Travel, a Knutsford-based bus operator owned by Simon Fawcett.

1998 To recognise its growing nationwide fleet, CBC then rebranded and launched as Mistral Group PLC

2000 Rapid growth as the low floor bus revolution took hold driven by the implementation of the PSVAR Act 2000. This legislation paved the way for increased investment as operators transitioned from step entry vehicles to low floor with wheelchair access. Mistral was at the forefront of this change supplying the market leading Dennis Pointer Dart and Optare range.

2008 Fast forward to the Global Financial Crisis which saw several mainstream banks scale back their lending activity, leaving a gap in the market for a specialist funder to the PCV sector – Mistral Asset Finance is born and begins offering hire purchase finance agreements to the market.

2013 Alexander Dennis was looking to consolidate their position as the leading supplier to the large operating groups by re-entering the SME retail market – Mistral partners with them to provide the Enviro200, which rapidly becomes the bus of choice for small and medium-sized operators.

2018 Mistral looks to diversify and grow further by introducing the Volvo Plaxton Panther and Leopard ranges to its rental offering with instant success.

2020 The industry was rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw Mistral, with the support of its underlying funders, respond to the challenge by giving unprecedented levels of payment holidays and flexibility to its customer base.

2022 The launch of The Bus Shop, Mistral’s dedicated new initiative for used vehicle sales, led by National Used Vehicle Sales Manager, Andy Biggs. Initially conceived as a direct route to market for the disposal of low mileage, late-registered ex-rental fleet assets, The Bus Shop has since evolved to incorporate both the remarketing of finance return equipment and an assisted sale provision for the disposal of third-party vehicles.

Simon Fawcett, Mistral Group’s founder, comments:

“What a journey we have had! It is incredible to see how times have changed since I was a small bus operator, and I saw an opportunity in the market to become a supplier to the industry. It has been a big learning curve and I have been blessed by a brilliant team of people around me, who have dedicated such a lot of time, energy and real expertise to our business; they have dreamt up ideas that we have been able to put into practise, become bus spotters and industry nerds, and above all poured their enthusiasm into everything that we have achieved so far. Just as the last few years have presented us with issues that we had never anticipated, the next few years are set to bring us many more exciting challenges and we look forward eagerly to see where the new advances in the industry will take us.

It would also be impossible for us to celebrate this milestone without not just celebrating the staff but by thanking all our customers, partners, and suppliers who have played a part in the journey which has brought Mistral to where we are today – we are extremely grateful. Here’s to a solid, strong and fruitful next 30 years!”

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