We often talk about companies like Ford and Mercedes-Benz that have their automotive roots over 100 years in the past, but those aren't the only old-timers in the industry. One of the oldest had been American LaFrance, a company that had been building firefighting vehicles for over 180 years. Notice that we said 'had been...'

The company's roots go back to 1832 as a firefighting equipment maker. It began building steam-powered, horse-drawn fire engines in the era before the internal combustion engine and merged with LaFrance in 1903 to become one of America's leading fire engine builders. Unfortunately, the 21st century was not been so kind to the company. Freightliner bought it in 1995 and production was moved from North Carolina to South Carolina, but it was sold again in December 2005. After declaring and emerging from bankruptcy in 2008, American LaFrance moved to a smaller factory in Moncks Corner, SC, in 2013.

American LaFrance's previous owner, Patriarch Partners, issued a statement to South Carolina newspaper The Post and Courier that said: "Unfortunately, the company's unexpected current financial condition requires the discontinuation of operations in these locations at this time and these facilities are not expected to reopen." Autoblog attempted to call American LaFrance for comment, but its listed phone number no longer works. It seems that the brand's flame has finally been extinguished.


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  • 48 Comments
      car-a-holic
      • 1 Year Ago
      Cheap build quality and poor reliability hurt them bad. While bad economy hurt cities and they purchased less fire apparatus, word spread industry wide of thier poor workmanship. Pierce took thier lunch money.... They own much if the market ALF gave up......
        Jerry
        • 1 Year Ago
        @car-a-holic
        Got Diamlered...
        jtav2002
        • 1 Year Ago
        @car-a-holic
        Like many things, it seems quality in general has slipped regardless of brand. My local department has predominantly ran Pierce for a long time, and recently purchased 2 new Pierce engines just back in 2011, both of which have had serious mechanical issues already to the point of needing to be taken out of service for several weeks to go back for repairs and necessitating borrowing an engine from a neighboring department. They're also supposed to be replacing another piece of apparatus this year and last I heard they were now looking outside of Pierce for the first time. Sure, just like cars, everything has problems, but it's certainly not good when you buy 2 and both experience the same problems that come up at the same time, especially when it's 2/3 of your front line equipment.
      Egon
      • 1 Year Ago
      Unfortunately, the American LaFrance death spiral has been around for a while and only made news once the final act was complete. ALF was reborn in the mid-90s as a fire chassis builder and then bought their way into building full fire trucks a few years later. When they were spun off from DaimlerChrysler, the entire transition was botched, the parts inventory system became a train wreck and the company was unable to finish trucks in production much less provide parts and service for the trucks already in the field. Their reputation destroyed, that was the beginning of the end. In the final few years, ALF went in and out of bankruptcy, stuck the tarnished brand-name on a garbage truck chassis (no kidding: Google 'American LaFrance Condor'), and then once again tried selling the chassis to other builders. But by that point, it wasn't a matter of 'if' the lights would be turned off, but 'when'.
      avinash Machado
      • 1 Year Ago
      Sad end to an iconic brand.
      Chas Post
      • 1 Year Ago
      American La France started it's downward fall when it was bought out by Figgie international, they were gready and didnt care about the quality of the finished product.
      creamwobbly
      • 1 Year Ago
      Yes, I noticed you said "had been" where "was" is sufficient.
      Matt Verb
      • 1 Year Ago
      wait an investment firm bought it, cheapened it up, sold it, now its not able to be competitive? no way, just like bain capital would do... ever see the movie 'The 5th Element'? when the darkness/evil would consume things..... I do not doubt all the other reasons for why it might of happened, but when people buy just to make money on something and not invest in its future (or current state of operations).. it does a disservice!
        rcavaretti
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Matt Verb
        Was going to say the same thing. These firms sweep in, steel the money, raid the retirement account (if any), take the liquid assets, leverage the rest, and poof....bankruptcy in a year or two. They did the same thing to Harry and David, the gift basket company.
          rstonnerdd
          • 1 Year Ago
          @rcavaretti
          "Steel the money"? I think that says it all regarding the thought put into your comment.
      peteMT
      • 1 Year Ago
      Ah. The company got 'Bained'. Don't worry, I'm sure those executives' bonuses and golden parachutes survived intact. Those workers will have to pull themselves up from their bootstraps! It's the American way! Imagine if we'd elected Mitt where we'd be in a decade.
        Philip
        • 1 Year Ago
        @peteMT
        We as a nation would be in a hell of a lot better shape than we are with that POS Oscumbo who spits in the face of every man, woman and child in this country, while trampling the Constitution and adding trillions of dollars to the National Debt.
          knightrider_6
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Philip
          yeah, Reagan was a POS. I completely agree with you. The right wing idiots still idolize him.
          Shawn
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Philip
          LOL at your revisionist history. Dude, Obammy is raising the deficit more than all past Presidents COMBINED. Please turn off MSDNC
          Shiftright
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Philip
          I'm an Independent because I don't trust either party, but you might want to check your facts. Dubbya and Republican presidents in general, have a long history of raising the deficit, Obama raised it initially in an attempt to kick start the economy, but not nearly as much as Dubbya, and has steadily been reducing it. But hey, I I know that facts often get in the way of what you want to believe / love / hate
      kajohns1964
      • 1 Year Ago
      Introducing the American LaChina fire engine.
      jz78817
      • 1 Year Ago
      Add one more to the Daimler Death Toll.
        Shiftright
        • 1 Year Ago
        @jz78817
        Did I miss something in the article? How was Daimler involved?
          Egon
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Shiftright
          The most recent incarnation of ALF was originally part of Freightliner, itself a subsidiary of DaimlerChrysler back in the mid-90s 'merger of equals'.
      knightrider_6
      • 1 Year Ago
      @churchmotor Don't worry. My tax dollars will pay for your welfare check.
        Shiftright
        • 1 Year Ago
        @knightrider_6
        Let's all hope you are never down and in need of assistance. Oh wait, that only happens to bad people right?
      Shawn
      • 1 Year Ago
      LOLolololz, "Shiftright" claims Obama has steadily been reducing the deficit. My God, then why do we keep having these debates to raise the debt ceiling. AMAZING
      Robert Ryan
      • 1 Year Ago
      Looks like the US economy is still struggling. A Company like La France should be still sort after for its specialist skills.
        GFB
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Robert Ryan
        "Specialist skills" such as running a good company into the ground? It is the workers who have the specialized skills, not management. The company screwed their workers and their customers.
        Bernard
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Robert Ryan
        So you're suggesting a bailout? Companies fail, it's called capitalism. If you don't like that you can try North Korea, Laos, Vietnam, Cuba, or China.
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