Case | HBS Case Collection | March 2006 (Revised September 2006)

Irizar in 2005

by Ramon Casadesus-Masanell and Jordan Mitchell


In June 2005, Koldo Saratxaga, the leader of Basque-based luxury coach manufacturer Irizar, decided to leave after 14 years at the helm of the worker-owned cooperative. Under Saratxaga's stewardship, Irizar was saved from near bankruptcy in 1991 and has become a highly profitable industry leader with a 23.9% compound annual growth rate since 1991. The company opened a number of manufacturing sites as far-reaching as Mexico, Morocco, India, Brazil, China, and South Africa. Irizar calls itself "a project based on people" and has realized its success through a business model characterized by a narrow product focus, strict quality adherence, an empowered workforce, and a truly customer-centric organization. Irizar's model is completely different from that of most other coach manufacturing firms given the absence of unions, departments, and hierarchy. All activities are carried out by self-managed teams (teams, for example, are responsible for setting their own work schedules and objectives). Although Irizar's model has worked fantastically well for over 14 years (since Sarataga's arrival), the question now is: Will the company continue to thrive without Saratxaga? Or is Irizar's success due to Saratxaga's leadership?

Keywords: Business Model; Business Startups; Customer Focus and Relationships; Resignation and Termination; Leadership Style; Production; Quality; Luxury; Competitive Advantage; Construction Industry; Real Estate Industry; South Africa; China; India; Mexico; Brazil;


Casadesus-Masanell, Ramon, and Jordan Mitchell. "Irizar in 2005." Harvard Business School Case 706-424, March 2006. (Revised September 2006.)