After a couple of false starts, Dublin-based Harris Auto is now about to embark on a serious assault on the UK coach market with a wide range of cost-effective and well-specified models
Visitors to Coach & Bus UK cannot fail to have noticed the vehicles displayed by Harris Auto. The Dublin-based importer has already had a couple of false starts during its bids to crack the UK. But now, it’s in a position to begin placing what is an extensive range into the market here.
Its vehicle parc extends from the Crusader range – which included minicoaches on the LDV V80 and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter base vehicles and a midicoach on the Iveco Daily chassis – through to the Higer Pegasus, which is a 12.6m, 55-seat low-height model that will debut at Busworld Brussels.
In between are the Isuzu AOS Visigo and the Higer Super 9 rear-engined midis. They are both purpose-built and complement the remainder of the range well.
In the longer term, electric vehicles will be added to the line-up, with the dealership saying that the Higer Steed will set to act as a zero-emission dual-purpose bus and short-distance coach in that sector. Five are on order in right-hand drive form with the first to be dispatched from China in December.
Perhaps the most unusual member of the Harris line-up is the Exodus. The first Exodus garnered attention at Coach & Bus UK. It is designed as a midicoach that can act as a funeral transport vehicle, with its below-floor area adapted to carry a coffin.
“We have seen success in Ireland and the time is now right to enter the UK,” says General Manager Chris Haughton. But that is not coming without major investment by Harris, he adds.
“As part of our growth we have given some big commitments to our manufacturer partners to deliver choice to the market. We believe that an extensive range will form a one-stop shop for some buyers, and our next focus will be establishing a customer base to allow us to make good on that.”
Harris does not rule out adding further models to its range. An 8m, mid-engined Isuzu AOS Toro is on the agenda, as are other minibuses. The only area it is reluctant to enter is the tri-axle market.
“Our priority is creating a range of useable coaches that are versatile. If we need more luggage space we can offer a raised two-axle Higer.”
At the heart of the Harris range are its midicoaches. The Super 9 and the Visigo have already been examined in routeone, but many changes have been made to them since the first of each arrived.
“The Super 9 has evolved into a different beast from what it was originally,” says Chris. 53 are on the road, including two in the UK; the remainder are in Ireland. The second for the UK was recently delivered to Anita’s Coaches of Stansted Airport.
“Around 100 changes have been made to the Super 9 in the last year. It now goes up to 41 seats,” he continues. As with the remainder of the Harris range the Super 9 comes with a lot as standard, and its Cummins ISB6.7/ZF EcoLife driveline is well-proven.
Complementing the Super 9 is the Visigo. It has the same engine and gearbox combination, including the 320bhp ISB6.7 engine, and is aimed at the more individual end of the market. It too is available with a variety of fittings, which is the reason why it has been used as the basis of the Exodus.
Another key to the Harris range is its Crusader line-up. It utilises three front-engined chassis and covers seating capacities from nine to 33.
The Daily-based model handles the top end of that field. Adjustments to the braking system have allowed Harris to raise the GVW of the chassis to 8,050kg when used in the Crusader range, and when combined with a ULW of 4,645kg that gives scope for high passenger and luggage capacity.
“We have also stretched the wheelbase to 5.2m as part of that work,” says Chris. Harris is responsible for the two-year comprehensive warranty and it expects this model to account for a significant portion of its Crusader sales.
An accessible variant of the Iveco-based Crusader is available, with up to three wheelchair users able to be carried. Because of the additional weight tolerance 33 seated passengers can still be conveyed in the accessible model.
All the Daily chassis used by Harris for the UK market will come with the F1C engine at its 210bhp rating, with the eight-speed Hi-Matic gearbox also standard. February is the delivery point for orders being taken now.
The Daily-based Crusader’s versatility continues at the rear. While it offers a high seating capacity, it can also be converted to give excellent luggage space with the sacrifice of four seats.
The back row is mounted on a bulkhead. It can be released and moved forwards when the row ahead has been removed. Harris says that the downseating operation takes around 25min.
Iveco’s high spec
As seen by routeone at Harris’ premises in Dublin, the Crusader comes with a great deal as standard. The additional weight tolerance permits the fitment of high-specification seats with lateral movement, and those in the demonstrator come with leather trim.
Diamond stitching is present within the roof lining, which is made of synthetic leather. The same material is used on the sidewalls, and a fridge and USB charging points are also fitted. Other options are available, including tables located to suit the buyer.
Externally, the boot is complemented by side lockers. A frontal styling kit is also added. The driving experience is common with other Daily-based minicoaches and it is good.
Although it was not possible to put the Iveco through its paces at high speed, it is a known quantity in that regard. Engine noise is low and driveability is excellent. The Hi-Matic gearbox is a major reason for that. Its changes are made rapidly, and momentum is gained quickly.
With 33 seats and the 210bhp engine, and all standard fittings, the Daily-based Crusader retails at £118,750. The 33-seat accessible variant comes in at £127,750. Harris has purchased a number of chassis and it is confident that this midicoach will capture the market’s imagination.
The lighter end of the Crusader range is made up of vehicles built on the V80 and the Sprinter chassis.
The highest-specification V80 model – a nine-seater with captain’s chairs – has already been examined, and various other seating configurations are available. LDV’s dealer network in the UK is well established and the Euro 6 model represents a significant upgrade from its Euro V predecessor.
Finalising the Crusader range, and its most recent addition, is a coachbuilt Sprinter-based minicoach. Harris completed a deal for a number of them with a Japanese dealer at Coach & Bus UK, and like the other Crusaders it is finished to a high standard.
With those three vehicles the basics of the line-up range are in place. Electric models will follow in recognition of the growing momentum away from diesel.
Harris Auto has made a major investment in its future within the coach (and bus) sector. At its Dublin headquarters is a large showroom and workshop facility, and it is taking steps to grow the extent of its representation in the UK.
The overall product offering from Harris is high quality. One of its selling points is the rapid availability of stock vehicles, although it can obtain them to order for specific requirements.
Where Harris is also marketing itself is at the cost-effective end of the market. Its vehicles come with a high level of standard specification, and thanks to the use of manufacturers and converters in lower-cost economies – and its almost ‘bulk buying’ capability – it can pass savings on to customers.
“When people see the range, they will be surprised at what we’ve been doing over the last year,” says Chris. “The scope of what we can offer is huge and that will grow further with the Pegasus.
“We are established in Ireland. Now we want to do the same in the UK. I am sure we will achieve that.”