Celebrates four years by opening new premises
Coachtraders, the Scottish based Unvi dealers, are celebrating their fourth year in business and to mark the event they have decided to move to new premises. Although Coachtraders is celebrating its fourth anniversary the origins of the company go back some way further than that. It was way back in 2000 that it all began when Harry Ferguson decided to import some accessible minibus conversions from an Irish company called KVC for his own fleet of accessible vehicles. Harry had been impressed with the quality of the KVC conversions that he had spotted at the Dublin Show. Harry at that time had a fleet of around 25 accessible vehicles which were operating mainly on contracts for West Lothian Council carrying disabled and special needs children.
One thing led to another and Ferguson’s set up a separate company, Harry Ferguson Coach Sales, to import and sell the KVC product in mainland UK. It was a successful move and the company began to supply vehicles to many operators throughout Scotland and Northern England. In 2002 KVC decided to expand its operations by taking on the franchise to sell Spanish built Unvi products alongside its own KVC conversions, throughout the UK and Ireland. Now branded Esker, it was quick to sign up Ferguson’s to handle its expanded range of products. It was a very successful arrangement with the new expanded range of mini and midi vehicles quickly becoming established as favourite choices with operators.
Sadly Esker was an early casualty of the economic downturn as Spain spiralled into deep recession and was forced to close, that in turn had a devastating effect on Harry Ferguson Coach Sales which was also forced to stop trading.
That might have been it, but it wasn’t to be.
In the later years Harry Ferguson Coach Sales had been primarily run by two resilient young men; Harry Ferguson’s son Brian and his long-time friend Gordon Robertson. They were very proud of what they had achieved in Scotland and Northern England by building up a reputation for providing good quality products, a high quality service and honest dealing and they were desperate not to let the operators they had dealt with down. ‘We had a lot of operators who had shown faith in us, they liked the product and they liked the way we did business,’ said Brian and we were determined to help them wherever we could despite the circumstances.’
From the ashes a solution began to emerge. They considered a number of options but most importantly they were approached by Unvi who were desperate to retain their substantial market presence in the UK – it having become a key market for them. Unvi had weathered the initial storm of the recession better than many Spanish vehicle builders because some years earlier they had embarked on plans to change from being a primarily domestic supplier to becoming a global player. This meant that they were to an extent somewhat cushioned from the collapse of the Spanish domestic market.
In the wake of the Esker collapse Unvi had decided to set up its own operation in the UK – Unvi UK, but this was purely to act as a channel for the importation and commissioning of the product. Sales, service and parts were to be handled by dealer companies, operating under Unvi UK. They also decided that they wanted separate networks – one looking after sales and another looking after the after care. They approached Brian and Gordon to be responsible for sales in Scotland and the North of England.
Following the collapse of Harry Ferguson Coach Sales Gordon and Brian had been approached by a number of their customers for help to trade-on vehicles they were looking to dispose of. To this end Gordon and Brian had set up a brokerage scheme. It worked and continues to perform a useful function to this day.
After some deliberation naturally, the pair decided to bite the bullet, accept the offer from Unvi and as a result Coachtraders was born. ‘It was a no brainer for us,’ says Gordon. ‘Customers were asking us to continue, we knew the product inside out, we knew Unvi inside out and we believed it could be a successful partnership, but it was a big step to take and we didn’t take it lightly.’ Fortunately, and somewhat uncharacteristically, Unvi moved fast on this, so for most operators it was a seamless transition.
Initially they set up the Coachtraders operation at Gordon’s home, later moving to a corner of the Ferguson facility though it has always been run as a separate operation. Fortunately for them and sensibly Unvi UK had also appointed Ferguson Fleetcare as its service agent for the territory. Sensible because of course Ferguson’s had been carrying out that function previously and had immense knowledge of the Unvi product.
Since that time Coachtraders has steadily grown and is again a major supplier of Unvi products throughout Scotland and the North of England. Recently, following Unvi’s decision to appoint Taylors Coach Sales as their agent in the South, Coachtraders has taken over responsibility for Lancashire and Yorkshire.