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Welcome to the new corporate jet

April 11, 2009 16:18 IST

No corporate fat cat wants to be caught jetting around in a company plane--not after the public spanking Congress recently gave Detroit and Wall Street executives.

Why not take the bus instead? Creative Mobile Interiors, a custom coach builder near Columbus, Ohio, can outfit your standard 45-foot-long motor coach into a luxurious rolling office for a fraction of the cost of owning a company plane. And, when you're not working, you can party like a rock star.

Mischa Deeter, a 30-year-old stock trader from Austin, Texas, recently took delivery on a $960,000 custom coach that features a top-of-the-line, DJ-ready, Denon sound system along with a 10-screen, workstation command center where he can track his investments. Creative Mobile Interiors bought the empty bus shell from Prevost for about $450,000 and then customized it for another $500,000.

To make a profit, Creative Mobile Interiors holds on "open-end bid" in which a price is agreed upon with the buyer. It is then up to Creative Mobile Interiors to finish under the bid price to ensure a profit. Customizing usually ranges from $320,000 to $480,000. Gross profit is about 13 per cent, net is about 4 per cent.

"It's an awesome way to travel," says Deeter, who started trading with a modest sum in college while surviving on Ramen noodles. He and his friends spent the winter "chasing the snow" to various ski resorts across the western US "I realised it wasn't how fast I got there," he says, "but how I got there." One way: via his driver.

Cruise control
The front lounge features dark walls, two custom white leather sofas and a 32" LCD monitor. Color-changing, high-tech cove lighting allows him to set the mood or program multiple light shows.

The dining area features another flat-screen TV, while the galley includes a sink, small counter top, convection microwave, ice maker, refrigerator and custom wine rack. The curvy hallway allows for an extra roomy bathroom on the curbside, featuring a ceramic tiled shower, glass resin vessel sink and custom curved cabinetry.

Across from the bathroom is the entertainment rack, where the computer system, sound system, gaming systems and in-motion satellite are all controlled by remote.

Six bunks--three on each side, each with its own privacy curtain and reading light--lead to the rear lounge, which serves as both the office and master bedroom.

With a push of a button, the one-of-a-kind, queen-size Murphy bed goes up inside the wall, revealing a two-panel door. One panel folds down into a desk, while the other panel lifts up, revealing ten 17" screens mounted under the bed. The monitors are tied into the computer network, which is connected to the Internet via two mobile wi-fi routers. From this room, a ceiling hatch leads to a roof deck accessible by a telescopic ladder.

Companies like custom buses for client hospitality at events like concerts or sporting events, and many use them for mobile marketing promotions. Amway, for instance, uses its bus as a mobile facial spa to promote its Artistry makeup line at Tina Turner concerts, according to Creative Mobile Interiors.

But company founder Owen Connaughton says he's also seeing an uptick in demand for customized buses and smaller Sprinter vans for executive travel.

"We're getting a lot of big companies that spent beaucoup dollars flying their execs around in private jets," he says. "Now what they're doing to save money is getting custom buses."

Leasing is becoming popular too, says Connaughton. "They wouldn't have to spend the $900,000 which, of course, is taboo. So they're spending $1,800 to $2,200 per day instead."

Private planes are a wonderful way to travel, he says, but a bus can offer far more amenities, making it feel like home.

"An airplane toilet is still an airplane toilet."

Joann Muller, Forbes
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