Of tough times and outstanding vehicles
Despite recent tough times, South Africa is one of the most important markets for Irizar, discovers GAVIN MYERS as it continues to strive for customer service excellence and focuses on the future.
Just over a year has passed since the FIFA World Cup. We remember the emotion, the euphoria, the festive atmosphere that engulfed every part of our lives for that one glorious month. It was a resounding success.
The problem though, according to Paul Nel, general manager of Irizar Southern Africa, was that little thing called the financial crisis. “I believe that the World Cup was a success, however the benefits of this success could not be reaped due to the economic downturn around the world. The number of tourists from around the world visiting South Africa has reduced dramatically due to the financial crisis.
“The priorities have changed for families taking holidays, to maybe staying at home or shortening their trip, which takes long distance destinations like South Africa out of the picture. With South Africa being a long distance destination and the strong ZAR over the past couple of months making South Africa an expensive destination, coach sales will be affected until such time that the ZAR weakens a bit and the world financial crisis diminishes,” he continues.
Despite this seemingly ominous outlook, Nel points out that Irizar South Africa finds itself amongst the top 10 markets for the Irizar group. And they are still firmly focused on the luxury and semi-luxury markets within Southern Africa, primarily covering the tourism and long distance intercity markets. This is why their coaches, ranging from 34 to 76 seaters, are equipped with standard luxuries such as air-conditioning (or forced air), reclining seats with lap belts, flat screen monitors and DVD/CD players. Of course, Irizar partners with most OEM manufactures, covering front-engine chassis and rear-engine 6×2 chassis, with rear steer.
Another reason for the company’s good performance is the emphasis that it places on its customer relations, and in specific the after sales performance. “Our focus has been on improving our after sales through training, parts availability and upgrading our facilities, as well as listening to our customers concerns and requests regarding body specification for their needs,” notes Nel. “Another key aspect is the relationship and open communication we share with our customers, which is vital to this success.”
Irizar South Africa is also currently marketing some very specialised vehicles to the mining sector, and is looking at introducing some new models for next year, along with improvements to the current range. “Some of these improvements will be on display at the Johannesburg International Motor Show, and the new models will be launched during 2012,” says Nel.
One possible new introduction could be the much lauded i6, which has been very well received in Europe and has already won some awards, but Nel is coy, “a date has not been set for this yet and we are still analysing the market for this model.” According to Nel, tough trading conditions will persist in our market for at least the next 12 months, and the availability of finance for operators will also be a deciding factor.
Regardless though, Nel is adamant that Irizar South Africa continues to strive to improve its after sales and training, and its facility in Pretoria. “Irizar South Africa has continued to strengthen itself as the market leader for luxury coaches in the Southern Africa region, and the foundation has been firmly laid in Centurion, Pretoria, with further investment made to the facilities and more to come,” assures Nel.
“In short Irizar SA is here to stay!”