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Irizar leverages connections to boost bus body quality

In the middle of a hectic year of deliveries, Irizar Asia Pacific is using its global ties to improve a critical part of a bus and coach body

When Irizar Asia Pacific managing director Steve Heanes sat down to think about how the Irizar bus and coach product can be improved in Australia, his thoughts went beyond the usual ideas around improving bodies.

Amid a hectic year where the high-quality bodybuilder has fulfilled a mammoth number of orders for Australian operators, Irizar has recognised a necessity to improve its offering moving forward to cater for customer demand.

As its next step forward, Irizar is tapping into the air-conditioning side of its body product through the company’s global connection with HVAC supplier Hispacold, with Heanes  establishing Hispacold Asia Pacific to allow for the increased support of existing Irizar/Hispacold users.

“We’re going to have a strong focus on the HVAC, air-conditioning units and air purifiers that we’ll supply from Hispacold to both Irizar and other bodybuilders in the Australian market,” Heanes told ABC.

“We want to explore all avenues of opportunity ahead of us and invest in the right people to service our current bus and rail customers.”

Heanes has appointed a new business development manager and aftersales manager to look after the Hispacold side of products under his leadership. He also plans to then invest more into the current Hispacold dealer network to improve services for customers.

“This move is the first step to improve the Irizar product inadvertently in Australia by focusing on the Hispacold suite of HVAC solutions for bus and coach bodies,” he says.

The two new Hispacold staff that will work under Heanes currently have two Hispacold units to focus their attention on.

The Hispacold diesel and electric models are produced for the wide range of existing diesel-type chassis and full electric buses that fill the Australian market. Hispacold also supplies units to rail projects around Australia, particularly in Sydney, Canberra and pending projects in Dubbo, NSW.

On the bus and coach side, a South Australian bus contract has Hispacold units onboard, meaning there are approximately 900 units currently on Australian roads.

Outside of that, Heanes says around 1200 units are also on Irizar bodies, with other bodybuilders also electing to use Hispacold HVAC systems for certain customers.

Heanes says the main idea behind recruiting two new staff to focus exclusively on Hispacold was to provide better customer support when it comes to aftersales care.

“This move allows us to drill down from an ownership point of view to ensure all units get serviced and provided maintenance when they need it,” he says.

“A key focus will be on supporting the current customers while also keeping an eye on growing the business.”

Heanes is confident this will have a flow-on effect for Irizar by providing an improved variety of HVAC selections for customers wanting to use Irizar’s high-quality bodies.

Irizar will use the new Hispacold focus to talk through any concerns with existing customers, opening new opportunities to supply Irizar bodies that will feature improved Hispacold units.

“With the investment into Hispacold products and people, I’m confident it will meet all customer expectations,” Heanes says.

Despite Irizar owning Hispacold globally, the two companies still operate independently on an international scale with Hispacold supplying to a large number of bus body builders and chassis OEMs who build their own bodies.

What Heanes is doing in Australia is a first – it’s something he’s wanted to do for a while to improve both products separately and uplift the overall quality of the bus and coach market.

“Currently out of the 10 or so HVAC suppliers in Australia into the bus and coach market, Hispacold runs at about number three in its area,” Heanes says.

“It’s a proven brand in Australia. We need to make sure while we get market results like this that we support the business.”

Despite the two brands still running somewhat independently in Australia, Hispacold will feature when Irizar moves into its new site in Melbourne later this year.

Heanes says soil has been turned and the footings are in at the new centre, with a completion date ranging in the latter months of 2023.

The new site will more than double Irizar’s warehouse capacity for holding spare parts, while there’ll also be a dedicated section for HVAC storage facilities that will supply both Irizar bodies and other bodies.

“We’ll also always keep complete Hispacold HVAC units on the shelf and we’ll build dedicated AC bays,” Heanes says.

“With this commitment, we’ve invested in new AC scaffold to service buses, including stairs, platforms and equipment.”

While the industry still continues to tackle the frustrating global supply chain and shipping challenges, the Hispacold focus is a positive moment for the brand.

Heanes says Irizar is still one of the leading brands in its sector in 2023, with the growth of the company allowing it to deliver nearly 200 vehicles for the year.

All of this needs a bigger site and a renewed focus. Heanes is confident these latest Hispacold appointments will provide a deserved boost for both Irizar and the greater Australian bus and coach market.

“We see this as an important part of a bus or coach to make sure we can provide the best-in-class product that we can to operators,” Heanes says.

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