Thomas as an independent company
Thomas Built Buses, Inc. was incorporated in 1972 as the successor to Perley A. Thomas Car Works. In 1988, Thomas introduced its first company-designed bus chassis for its popular Saf-T-Liner transit-style bus; the Saf-T-Liner was sold for both for school and commercial use. In the past, Thomas was previously dependent upon truck chassis made by other companies for its transit-style school bus bodies (particularly Ford, Dodge, GMC, International Harvester and even Volvo), much like the majority of other school bus manufacturers. Thomas was the first school bus manufacturer to design its own chassis for both its front and rear-engine models, beating competitor Blue Bird by a decade (California manufacturers Crown Coach and Gillig Corporation did not manufacture a front-engine model that competed with Thomas).
The late 1970s and early 1980s was a period of struggle for school bus manufacturers. Coupled with the slow economy, manufacturers could no longer count on the factor that had driven school bus sales for the past two decades: the entirety of the baby-boom generation had finished school; it would be years before student populations would create sufficient demand again. During this time, a number of manufacturers either encountered financial difficulty or closed their doors altogether. Thomas diversified its product lineup, entering the small school bus market, creating unique products, and redesigning its transit-style buses to compete with newly-introduced competitors.
In 1980, the company began to manufacture a smaller school bus on a cutaway van chassis, the Thomas Minotour, which is still in production (as of 2010). Also in the 1980s, the company entered the commercial public transit bus market. In 1989, Thomas introduced the Thomas Vista school bus, a modified conventional design providing improved front-end visibility for drivers. Early in the 1990s, Thomas introduced the MVP (which stood for Maneuverability, Visibility, and Protection); a transit-style school bus, available in front and rear-engine models, the MVP was a lower-cost version of the standard Saf-T-Liner intended to boost sales. The front-engine MVP was still sold in 2010 as the Saf-T-Liner EF.
By the end of the 20th century, Thomas (along with Blue Bird and Ward successor AmTran) was one of only three principal builders of large school buses in the United States. It is still based in High Point, and in 1998, was acquired by the Freightliner Group of Daimler AG. Currently, Thomas employs over 1,600 people worldwide. wikipedia