When Omar Orozco put his first Irizar i6 motorcoach on the road in March 2016, several clients immediately told him to only send that bus in the future. Eighteen months later, the owner of Professional Charter Services in San Francisco owns six of them to meet demand as revenues have doubled.
“The passengers really like it; I’ve been getting good feedback,” says Orozco, whose fleet includes 22 motorcoaches that serve universities and technology company clients. “My clients are paying back on my investment in these elegant buses.”
Such testimonials are rolling in for Spain-based Irizar and its U.S. distributor INA (Irizar North America) Bus Sales one year after it introduced its i6 luxury 45-foot, 56-passenger motorcoach into the U.S. chauffeured transportation and motorcoach markets. “The seating is very comfortable,” Orozco adds. “It’s modern like a bullet. The angle of the window and windshield gives you a panoramic view from the inside.”
The Irizar i6 has not only drawn its first — but repeat — limousine and charter bus company clients who are using the coach for all types of runs such as school and university-related trips, employee and on-campus shuttles, long haul scheduled service, casino contracts, convention transfers, and tour group trips.
So far, 15 bus operations nationwide are running more than 50 i6 coaches. It’s also received custom orders for the i6 to be delivered later this year.
More than half of the first-year buyers are repeat customers, like Orozco, says Chad Dixon, COO of INA Bus Sales.
“There is no stronger testament to our customers having a great experience with their new Irizar i6 than a client returning to purchase additional i6 coaches from our company.”
The i6 offers a full package of luxury, safety, and mechanical amenities. For Kelly Cook, consultant and partner at Santiago Express in Dallas, that combination was a business lifesaver when he urgently needed new buses late last year.
Before buying the new Irizar buses, one of the motorcoaches he used for interstate line runs was pulled over by the California Highway Patrol because it lacked an engine label certifying the bus meets California’s strict EPA rules, which are far more stringent than in other states, Cook said.
While searching the internet for buses that meet all environmental certifications in California, he came across Irizar and Mike Haggerty, the owner of INA Bus Sales. He called Haggerty on a Saturday night, who immediately invited him to view i6 coaches in Dallas that weekend. By Tuesday, Cook flew to INA headquarters in Las Vegas to close the deal on three buses.
“It was an out of the blue call on the Internet on a Saturday night,” Cook says. “I was desperate to get buses. Mike, his wife, and son were a big reason why we are loyal to the Irizar brand. We’ll buy Irizars for the rest of our life due to their representation.”
Customer testimonials, like those of Orozco and Kelly, have been encouraging for Irizar as the luxury motorcoach market grows in the U.S. due to a post-recession demand this decade for safe, comfortable, and high-quality group transportation that exceeds the experience of airline economy class.
Service & Support
A critical component of motorcoach service for operators is the aftermarket support and access to fast maintenance.
“The alliance of Irizar and INA Bus Sales is very focused on aftermarket support and we hold ourselves to a very high standard,” Dixon says. “As we have had a little more than a year with our early adopters of the Irizar i6 and more than two million miles across that collective fleet that has been in the market, the performance and customer satisfaction have been very telling.”
INA has been closely monitoring the performance and durability of its new coach so it can position it as a long-term product in the motorcoach market. Despite its foreign origins, the aftermarket and support service network set up by INA Bus Sales is as good as any run by a domestic manufacturer, Dixon says.
INA has multiple locations nationwide. “All of the first-class service centers, each with full maintenance capability, parts inventory on hand, and experienced technicians on site and located throughout the U.S. are a part of the INA Bus Sales service network as authorized Irizar i6 service centers,” Dixon explains. Those locations include Burlingame, Calif., Orlando, Fla., Las Vegas, Dallas, Faribault, Minn., and Pine Brook, N.J.
Troubleshooting is easy with INA able to pinpoint problems quickly and immediately send help if needed, Orozco says. “They help me a lot to understand and work through anything about the vehicle.”
The service structure reflects INA/Irizar’s goal of staying close to its customers. “We have found a dedication to be responsive and creative with how best to solve challenges or unscheduled maintenance events has led to a stronger connection to our customers,” Dixon says. “We all face challenges and unexpected problems in our business, and with sophisticated equipment such as a new motorcoach, it is how we overcome those issues with our partner operators that makes all the difference.”
Like the business model of its bus clients, the company works to provide VIP treatment. “Our research suggested this was an opportunity with the status of the market when we launched the company last year, enabling not only the uniqueness of the Irizar i6 to be a real differentiator, but also our approach to aftersales service,” Dixon says.
• Since the first i6s hit U.S. roads last year, Irizar introduced customized seating options that improve comfort with added legroom and enhanced safety. Irizar maintains it offers the only seats for full size coaches on the market that surpass both FMVSS 207 and 210 standards. For custom orders, clients may choose from a wide array of the latest European leathers, fabrics, and synthetic materials in a wide range of colors and customize seven different sections of the seats.
• Irizar has developed a new design for its ADA wheelchair lift system in which the enclosure hangs from the top of the luggage compartment instead of on the floor of the baggage bays. This further enhances the storage capacity of its SuperCargo models, providing better access for the loading and unloading of luggage when using the last curbside cargo bay of the Irizar i6.
• Irizar delivered its first two-door model earlier this year, which includes a second door halfway down the right side.
• The integral i6 designed for the U.S. market, with a stainless steel monocoque designed chassis and equipped with a Cummins ISX EPA 2017 engine and Allison B500 transmission, are made at Irizar’s primary state-of-the-art production factory and headquarters in the San Sebastian region of Northern Spain.
These motorcoaches have a dedicated production line with a spec production run of i6 coaches monthly. INA Bus Sales can fulfill custom orders to their exact specifications and deliver those units within a 90-120 day timeframe, year round. It keeps a new inventory of in stock units strategically positioned throughout the country.
This article originally appeared in LCT Magazine.