The company was founded in 1947 by Bernard Van Hool in Koningshooikt, nearby Lier, Belgium. In the early years, the company introduced serial production and exported their products all over Europe. Since the mid-1980s the company has also been active on the North American market, where it has become an important player.
On February 15, 1957 Van Hool signed a commercial agreement with Fiat. Van Hool would incorporate Fiat engines and other mechanical components (gearboxes, axles, steering) in its vehicles. It developed from a coachbuilder to a Belgian manufacturer of integral buses and coaches, known as Van Hool-Fiat. Alongside these activities the company continued as a renowned coachbuilder, enabling further expansion.
The Van Hool-Fiat co-operation immediately was a great success: a year and a half after the agreement was signed, in August 1958 the 100th Van Hool-Fiat was delivered, and by July 1961 the figure had exceeded 500. The cooperation agreement with Fiat was terminated in 1981.
In 1990 Van Hool purchased the coachbuilding business of LAG Manufacturing, and continued producing their EOS models for about ten years.
Most of the buses and coaches are built totally by Van Hool, with engines and axles sourced from Caterpillar, Cummins, DAF and MAN and gearboxes from ZF or Voith, and some of their production consists of building bus and coach bodies on bus chassis from manufacturers such as Volvo and Scania.
Worldwide Van Hool employs 4,500 people and manufactures over 1,700 buses and coaches (bodyworks and complete vehicles combined) and 5,000 trailers each year. It sells an average of 600 coaches annually in the US.