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Focus on bicycle lanes has led to ‘appalling’ EV infrastructure, Harris Group says



Focus on bicycle lanes has led to ‘appalling’ EV infrastructure, Harris Group says

The Government has put too much focus on bicycle lanes to the detriment of the State’s “appalling” infrastructure for electric vehicles (EVs), the chief executive of Ireland’s biggest importer and distributor of commercial vehicles has said.

Denise Harris (79) was speaking after Harris Group, which was founded by her late husband Pino Harris in 1961, announced a major restructuring of its operations on Tuesday.

Ms Harris is to 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.

Brian Patterson has joined as group managing director; Mark Barrett has been appointed as managing director of group franchises; John Keogh joins the business as managing director of retail operations; and Barry McGrane is the new chief financial officer.

“I’m of an age where I probably will – maybe in 20 years’ time – be minded to retire,” said Ms Harris. “I’m building a strong leadership team that will carry the business forward for the next 30-40 years. I haven’t any retirement plan at the moment, rest assured. I still intend being here.”

Ms Harris said that while the company has been working with EVs since 2016, the technology remained the biggest disrupter in the industry’s short- to medium-term future, and that the State’s infrastructure was “sadly lacking”.

“It’s appalling really,” she said. “People would love to adapt to EVs but they are concerned about where their charger is. They go to a charging station and they find a queue for an hour or two hours and they can’t afford to sit and wait. Or the chargers are broken.

“Especially for buses and the general public service, the infrastructure that is required just isn’t there. I am passionate about the green agenda. I feel very, very strongly about it. I feel that not enough time, effort and money has been put into the systems around the country.

“We are behind the UK. I know it is a much bigger country, but we are quite a lot behind. I think unfortunately the focus has been on bicycle lanes rather than infrastructure for electric vehicles of all types.”

On the same subject, Mr Patterson, the group’s new managing director, said: “We are lacking the infrastructure, but we are also lacking the understanding of what’s required to get the infrastructure.”

As part of the restructuring, the company is also to redevelop its 24-acre Naas Road site to make it more open so fleet, commercial and private buyers can visit the new public showrooms at their leisure.

In terms of the personnel changes, Mr Patterson said Ms Harris “has put a structure in place underneath and alongside her with myself and John, and the structure is designed to support growth”.

“We’ve now got the right structure in,” he said. “Now it is about getting digitalised, modernised and seeing how we can add to our portfolio. Modernisation will be a big part of the agenda.”

With more than 120 independent dealerships across all its brands and territories, Ms Harris said her team expected to grow the group’s dealership network by 15 per cent in 2024.

In the past three years, staff numbers have increased by 30 per cent and the company plans to optimise its sales and after-sales services through additional on-the-ground support. A recruitment drive is under way.

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