A first class idea

A first class idea

Every now and then, something new and different comes along that makes everyone sit up and take notice. Irizar had that “something” at the Johannesburg International Motor Show.

A vehicle brought in to “test the local waters” for a new concept in coach travel has proved to be something of an eye-opener for the local industry. Irizar’s new super-luxury coach, the Century Premium, got operators’ tongues wagging when it was shown at the Johannesburg International Motor Show (JIMS) last month.

“The bus was a concept brought in on speculation and we’re gratified to see that it was sold in such a short space of time following arrival,” says Ryan Levendale, Irizar sales manager.

The 48-seater Century Premium’s claim to fame is its 12 full-leather, 120-degree reclining sleeper seats with leg rests – “first-class”, if you will. A partitioned galley kitchen equipped with a microwave, sink, refrigerator, boilers and generous storage spaces separates the privileged 12 from a further 36 standard reclining fabric seats – the “economy class”.

“What we’ve gone for is a double-decker on one level – which has the advantages of being physically lighter; improved fuel consumption because it’s more aerodynamic; providing improved luggage capacity per passenger; and the further benefit that passenger space is not compromised in the process,” says Levendale.

Surprisingly, Irizar did not choose to use its top-of-the-range body with this particular vehicle. However, this allowed for the inclusion of features that fall within the normal selling price. It is therefore the standard Century Premium body with beefed-up passenger comfort, rather than the more advanced PB Body shape – which offers greater overall technology, but comes with a marginally increased operating cost.

Among the luxury touches for first class passengers is the multi-channel individual sound option. This allows the passenger to choose between four options, the on-board DVD movie, a music CD or two radio channels and listen via individual headphones.

This particular unit has been purchased by Zimbabwean tour company, Bravo Tours, which intends to use it as a new concept for intercity travel between Harare and Victoria Falls. “We’re finding the export market very vibrant; this is Bravo Tours’ sixth coach in 18 months, and we look forward to growing our business with them,” says Levendale.

“The unit attracted a lot of attention from blue-chip operators. It’s an eye-opener for the industry and we expect similar, and more, in the future,” continues Levendale.

Irizar also had three other coaches (exemplifying the full range of semi-luxury, luxury and super-luxury units) on display; two Century Luxury coaches and the brand’s flagship 46-seater PB, which also proved very popular with all visitors and operators.

“We’re glad to see that JIMS is very well supported by both South African and cross-border operators, and we were happy to welcome two of our directors from Brazil and one from Spain,” says Levendale. “The show has been great because it is a chance to showcase all the vehicles to the established operators, as well as attracting fair interest from new and budding enterprises.”

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