The Hino truck brand may be 75 years old and Hino’s history can be traced back 100 years, but Japan’s leading heavy and extra-heavy truck manufacturer for the past 44 years is certainly moving ahead strongly in the 21st century. Production is increasing, exports are growing, a high-tech factory has been commissioned and an important new generation Hino 500 range is being rolled out worldwide.
What will be of most interest to South African truck operators is the fact that the current Hino 500, which has been on sale locally for the past 14 years and is a mainstay of many fleets, is being replaced by an all-new model. It will go into production in November at Hino SA’s factory at Prospecton, near Durban, while several pre-launch events around this upcoming new model launch are underway already using pre-production prototype units.
A group of South African trucking journalists visited Hino Motors in Japan recently to learn first-hand about this important new model. They had the opportunity of being able to be driven around a test track in the new Hino 500 and were privileged to have a preview tour the modern Koga plant, north of Tokyo, prior to its official opening later in the year.
The new range of Hino 500 trucks is the result of many years of intensive research and development in Japan and globally. The project began in 2010 and the first concept was presented to management a year later. It then took five years of ongoing development before it went into production and was sold first in Indonesia in 2015.
Addressing the visiting journalists, the Chief Engineer of the so-called “Wide Body”, Hino 500, Mamoru Tamazawa, said the design team’s major focus points with the new Hino 500 project was to further enhance Hino’s reputation for outstanding Quality, Durability, and Reliability (QDR), improve engine performance in terms of both power and torque while cutting emissions and lowering fuel consumption while, importantly, ensuring the new model provides a better driving experience in all aspects.
The Hino 500 model range has been extended to meet customer requirements and includes 6×4 models for the first time, while certain derivatives will be offered with a six-speed Allison fully automatic transmission. The new, “Wide Body” models will extend from 16- to 28-ton payload derivatives, with the current 6- and 8-ton models continuing unchanged.
The latest Hino 500 is now in production at a new factory, built on a greenfield site, in Koga, about 120km north of Tokyo. This is a world-class, state-of-the-art truck manufacturing facility with a high proportion of robotisation – including 95% of the cab welding and 95% of the painting – to ensure the highest quality standards and production consistency.
Koga is now considered the “mother factory” for Hino’s various overseas operations and is the export base for Knocked Down (KD) and Completely Knocked Down (CKD) kits for overseas assembly in 22 countries, which includes South Africa.
Many of the 2 000 employees at the Koga plant have been relocated from the Hino City factory alongside the Hino head office in an area of Tokyo which is now mainly residential which has put restrictions on factory operating hours and has no space for expansion, so this factory is being closed.
Another reason for the move to a new factory is that it marks a major investment by Hino as it ramps up its production capacity as the commpany spreads its wings in more global markets, than the current 90 countries in which it now sells its trucks. This involves Hino South Africa, an important member of the Toyota Group, looking for more sales in South Africa, while the company also intends establishing new markets in other Sub-Saharan countries.
Last year Hino sold a record 170 000 trucks and buses with the majority – 107 000 – having been exported to markets outside Japan. The biggest export market for Hino in 2016 was Indonesia, followed by Thailand and the United States, with Hino South Africa in ninth position.
“We are seeing economic growth in many of our markets – but, unfortunately not in South Africa – and that is the reason we are predicting stronger global sales in 2017 than we had in 2016,” explained Toshiaki Yasuda, the Managing Officer for Overseas Sales, and Marketing at Hino Motors.
“The new Hino 500 has been well-accepted in the markets where it has been launched already, particularly in Indonesia and Thailand. As an example, sales of the new model in Indonesia are up 60 per cent compared to those of the previous model over the same period. We are now looking forward to the launch of the new Hino 500 in South Africa, where it is a very important model in our range and one of the keys to growing sales in the region.”