Irizar presents new flagship coach model
Irizar’s commitment to the UK market is without question. And while its long-running partnership with Scania continues, the engine for growth in the past few years has been the integral offerings sold through its Irizar UK operation. From the outset, Irizar showed that it wanted to build a long term base for its integral option in the UK and in Steve O’Neil and Ian Hall it identified two well-known and widely-respected individuals who are steeped in the UK coach sector, with a welcome mix of experience from the perspective of both dealer and operator.
Four years on and in launching its new flagship i8, Irizar has ensured that the right-hand drive version is available hot on the heels of the left-hand drive coach, and has committed itself to a major investment in new, larger premises for its Irizar UK operation.
Irizar formally unveiled its right-hand drive version of the new i8, which replaces the PB as its top-of-the-range offering, to a visiting group of more than 60 UK coach operators in Ormaiztegi, Spain last month. The new i8 will be offered initially in the UK as a three-axle 3.7m-high coach at 13.2 and 14m lengths with a DAF Paccar MX13 engine rated at 462hp or 510hp and ZF AS-Tronic 12-speed automated gearbox. An option of a ZF Ecolife 6-speed fully automatic transmission will be available later in 2016 for the 462hp engine.
The first seven vehicles are now in build with five sold, one demonstrator and a seventh for sale, although strong interest in the latter was shown at the Ormaiztegi launch event. The first four vehicles will all be team coaches with two for Ellisons and one each for Clarke’s of London and Stewarts Coaches.
The i8 features a number of exclusive items that are not available on the i6, including a new range of seats and a multi-media MMI system with joystick control as standard, plus a wider entrance door and step.
“During 2015 we delivered our 200th unit, and anticipate the delivery of our 300th unit in 2016,” says Irizar UK sales director Ian Hall. “This growth has not been achievable without a huge investment in people and infrastructure over the last four years, and particularly through 2015.
“In 2015, we turned over £21.5million, an increase of nearly 50 per cent over the previous year, and delivered just short of 80 integral units into the UK, which equates to approximately 8 per cent of the UK body market. Back in 2011, when we launched Irizar UK, total Irizar products into the UK only took a 6 per cent share of the market; in 2015 they are anticipated to be about 20 per cent.”
The UK operation, based at Worksop, saw its staff numbers double in 2015 to 14 people and Irizar has confirmed plans to invest in a new £3.5million facility close to the existing premises at Johnson Brothers in Worksop which will continue as an Irizar service centre.
“We believe that this new facility will be one of the best of its kind in the European market,” says Steve O’Neil, Irizar UK director.
The i8 is being pitched at around £30,000 above the price of the i6 coach with retail prices for the 13.2m i8 at £295,000 and the 14m at £299,000. Clearly the i8 will not be a volume product but will compete against the likes of Van Hool’s Astronef and Altano.
The DAF powertrain was a particular attraction for a number of the operators inspecting the new i8 for the first time in Ormaiztegi last month, with many of them having strong familiarity and acceptance of its credentials from other marques.
The differentiation with the i6 is being maintained with some exclusive offerings for the i8, including the MMI system and the new seats, although it is fair to say that the differences are not as significant as some other manufacturers when it comes to top end models. That might be due to the fact that the i6 is well specified itself, of course, and Irizar is setting great store on the i8 performing well on residual value, meaning that the additional upfront cost will be seen as worthwhile as a longer term asset.
Goton Gomez, Irizar export director points to the arrival of the i8 as evidence of the company’s widest ever product range. In addition to its i4, i6 and i8 coaches, Irizar is also eyeing up the potential for electric buses with its i2e model, two of which are currently on trial in London. The i2e is assembled in a separate plant some 20km from the main factory at Ormaiztegi, with an additional unit close by that is used for initial assembly of the ‘chassis’ components for its integral coach range.
Integral production this year is expected to account for more than a quarter of the output from Spain, according to Gomez, a sign of the increasing importance of this option outside the home markets of Spain and Portugal.
The Spanish plant is also manufacturing coaches for the USA market. One might expect North America to be serviced from the Mexican plant, but presumably discerning US buyers put a premium on the value of a European-built coach.
The US i6 models don’t quite have the panache of other coaches emerging from the Ormaiztegi plant, however, with an intrusive split windscreen somewhat spoiling the clean lines of the design.
As reported on our International pages in this issue, Irizar is presenting two i6 coaches at the big North American show in Atlanta this month and its distribution in the USA will be handled by Las Vegas-based INA Bus Sales.
Back in the UK, Ian Hall points to significant enhancements in aftersales with the appointment of Andy Mageer, as aftercare manager and a team of three mobile field service engineers covering the UK.
“We now believe that our level of service to be at industry-leading standards,” says Hall.
“Despite us being a very small and integrated team, we believe we now have one of the most dedicated and passionate teams in the industry, and we are confident that we now have the infrastructure in place to support our products, and customers, as the business continues to grow.”
In 2016, Irizar UK is planning for around 20 i8s with the first models arriving here within weeks.