Harris Group enters new phase of business growth with appointment of new senior management team

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The Harris Group, Ireland’s largest privately owned automotive distributor and retailer has announced a strategic restructuring of the Naas Road, Dublin based company, including the appointment of a new senior management team, positioning the business for a new era of growth under the leadership of Chairperson and CEO, Denise Harris.

Building on the legacy of Pino Harris who founded the company in 1961, Denise Harris will be joined by four new executive directors who will drive the business in its key areas of sales and distribution, after sales, parts and assembly and training, alongside its finance and IT functions. The appointments, together with the restructuring of the business have been designed to prepare Harris Group for its next phase of growth and future proof it for current and future generations.

Speaking about the future of the business, Denise Harris said: “We have ambitious targets for double digit growth across all of our brands in both Ireland and the UK and are growing our dealership network while also investing heavily in training. The redevelopment of our Dublin headquarters will result in a more open site meaning fleet, commercial and private buyers can visit our new public showrooms at their leisure and meet with our commercial automotive experts.”  The new showrooms are at an advanced stage of planning and will open to the public over the coming months.

Located on some 24 acres on the Naas Rd. in Dublin, Harris Group is already Ireland’s largest retail sales centre for the commercial vehicle sector with marque brands including Isuzu, MAXUS and Higer Bus & Coach. With a substantial parts stockholding, the business is also the largest parts distribution centre in the country and a recognised leader in the future of motoring both in Ireland and the UK.

The UK is the largest market for the group’s MAXUS brand where Harris has a significant presence including a substantial, modern UK headquarters in Liverpool, housing a parts depot and warehouse together with Harris MAXUS’ proprietary technical training academy. The UK HQ is operated by a team of more than 30 and complemented by a growing national network of some 60 MAXUS dealerships and aftersales centres.

New leadership team

The new senior management team working alongside Chairperson and CEO, Denise Harris brings together some of the most experienced professionals in the motoring industry whose remit will be to support Denise Harris in taking the business forward:

  • Brian Patterson has joined the business as Group Managing Director developing and driving the group’s strategy and ambitious growth targets with responsibility for the business’ P&L.
  • Mark Barrett has been appointed to the role of Managing Director of Group Franchises, with responsibility for the growth and success of the group’s brands, sales, dealer development and marketing in Ireland, the UK and right-hand drive Europe, where Harris has the franchise for the MAXUS brand.
  • John Keogh joins the business as Managing Director of Retail Operations, heading up the sales and marketing functions in Ireland and with a focus on technological innovation, which will optimise the modern retailing concept. John will also oversee a number of key divisions including retail sales, service and parts.
  • Barry McGrane is Harris Group’s newly appointed Chief Financial Officer. A vastly experienced finance professional, Barry has more than 30 years’ experience working with both Irish and international businesses across multiple sectors, including motor trade, and will be responsible for Harris Group’s finance and IT functions.

Denise Harris also confirmed that Nigel Birkmyre has joined the Harris Group board. Widely recognised as a trusted leader and advisor to the automotive industry, Nigel will provide counsel and support to the new management team.  Denise Harris said: “Today marks a transformative moment for the Harris Group. Our strategic restructuring creates a platform for growth and innovation as we re-position the business in line with the evolution of the motoring industry. Together with the new management team, I have undertaken a full review of our operation to ensure we have the optimal structure, the best people and the most advanced processes to future proof the business and to be a progressive industry leader. The company has been operating for more than 60 years and is gearing up for the next 60, and beyond. 

“It’s an exciting time for Harris Group as we enter this new phase of growth. And while we are creating an even more dynamic operation, underpinning all of this change is a consistent commitment to excellence and outstanding customer service. It was important to me that we retained these founding values of the business, honouring the legacy and pioneering spirit of my late husband, Pino Harris.”

2023 growth, 2024 forecasts

Harris Group has reported significant sales growth for 2023, notwithstanding the industry-wide global challenges relating to supply chain and changes in regulatory requirements. Highlights include:

  • The MAXUS range of light commercial vehicles, which includes an extensive range of all-electric vans and the first EV pick-up and MPV in Ireland and the UK, grew by a significant 46% in 2023.
  • Further growth in the region of 60% is anticipated for 2024, which will be complemented by the launch of more new vehicles for both commercial and passenger car drivers.
  • In the UK, MAXUS ranked number one in EV light commercial vehicle sales in December 2023 and fourth overall for the full year, despite having only launched in 2016 (Source: Glass’s)
  • Harris Group parts business is growing by ~30% year on year.
  • Sales of bus and coach grew by 19% in 2023 and is forecasted to grow significantly  in 2024 with a UK launch (sales and aftersales) planned this year.
  • While sales of premium brand, Isuzu fell last year, primarily due to model changes and regulatory requirements, Harris Group forecasts sales growth of 50% in 2024, which will be driven, in part, by the much-lauded Isuzu D-MAX.

Investing in the future

Plans have been approved for the expansion of Harris’ onsite Training Academy, which provides cutting-edge EV (electric vehicle) training for technicians both within the group and across its extensive dealership network. The academy, launched in 2021, has quickly become a premier hub for knowledge exchange and a leading centre of excellence in EV technology education. Denise Harris said: “I am personally committed to supporting the next generation of technicians, engineers and industry professionals and firmly believe in the importance and power of continuous education and training. Future proofing the business is an ongoing process and the training academy is a central component of our long-term investment strategy.”

Network

With more than 120 independent dealerships across all its brands and territories Denise Harris confirmed that her team expects to grow the group’s dealership network by 15% in 2024. The territories in which Harris Group operates are:

  • Harris MAXUS sales and aftersales’ function operates in Ireland, the UK and across right hand drive Europe (Cyprus, Malta, Chanel Islands and Isle of Man)
  • Harris Bus and Coach is active in Ireland and the company is gearing up for a sales and aftersales launch in the UK in H2 2024
  • The group has the franchise for Isuzu (sales and aftersales) in Ireland

In the past three years, staff numbers have increased by 30% and the company plans to optimise its already comprehensive sales and after-sales services and enhance the customer experience through additional on-the-ground support. A recruitment drive is underway for 2024 in line with Harris Group’s long-term growth strategy.

There is a new energy that is being felt right across our business as a result of the significant changes we are making,” said Denise Harris. “Backed by an incredible team of visionaries, I am confident that the Harris Group will continue to grow at pace, while being recognised as both an industry leader and a pioneer in new and alternative energy vehicles for many years to come.”