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Hino is aim­ing high with its 500 wide cab se­ries

Owner Driver - - Front Page - Steve Brooks

SURE, IT WAS a blunt ques­tion. Maybe even an­tag­o­nis­tic. Still, the oc­ca­sion and the op­por­tu­nity were too good to ig­nore, es­pe­cially with one of Hino’s most se­nior Ja­panese ex­ec­u­tives seated among the mass of me­dia and lo­cal Hino ex­ec­u­tives gath­ered for the much-an­tic­i­pated launch of the new 500 Se­ries wide-cab mod­els.

“Do you feel you get enough sup­port in terms of prod­uct de­vel­op­ment from Hino in Ja­pan to be any­thing other than the perennial brides­maid to Isuzu?”

It was a ques­tion di­rected at Hino Mo­tor Sales Aus­tralia (HMSA) chair­man and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Steve Lot­ter. To his con­sid­er­able credit, the re­sponse was im­me­di­ate and to the point.

“Would we like more prod­uct from Ja­pan? Of course we would,” he de­clared.

How­ever, as Lot­ter was just as quick to em­pha­sise, Hino is part of the gar­gan­tuan Toy­ota em­pire, and, with op­er­a­tions in al­most ev­ery part of the world, the needs and wants of HMSA are among many.

Ba­si­cally, it’s all about pri­or­i­ties and re­sources, and, de­spite the vast de­vel­op­ment and en­gi­neer­ing as­sets of the Ja­panese con­glom­er­ate, HMSA must take its place in a queue that stretches to mar­kets across the globe.

Yet any hope the ques­tion might stir some­thing other than a well-prac­ticed cor­po­rate smile from Hino se­nior ex­ec­u­tive Kenji Na­gakubo proved to be noth­ing more than wish­ful think­ing.

Strange, re­ally, par­tic­u­larly given Kenji-san’s high-rank­ing sta­tus as manag­ing of­fi­cer of Hino Mo­tors Ltd and his pre­vi­ous his­tory as head en­gi­neer of the new 500 Se­ries project. Even some­thing along the lines of, “We’re al­ways look­ing at new prod­ucts for all our mar­kets,” would’ve suf­ficed.

But no, noth­ing ex­cept that quizzical smile so of­ten seen on top-level Ja­panese ex­ec­u­tives faced with un­com­fort­able ques­tions.

As for the ‘brides­maid’ ti­tle, Lot­ter didn’t bite. Wisely, per­haps! Which goes to show times have cer­tainly changed, be­cause it’s not too many years back that Hino heavy­weights here and abroad would never have missed an op­por­tu­nity to boldly state a de­vout in­ten­tion to dis­place Isuzu from its perch at the top of the Australian truck mar­ket. But that, too, has proved to be wish­ful think­ing. Nowa­days, con­ver­sa­tions about as­pi­ra­tional as­cen­dancy are few and far be­tween in Hino ranks.

Funny thing, though, in a short chat in the cab of a truck with Na­gakubo, I asked if a Hino eight-wheeler with a load-shar­ing twin-steer would ap­pear in Aus­tralia

any­time soon in a bid to counter Isuzu’s run­away suc­cess with its 8x4 model.

“Not on the cur­rent agenda,” Kenji-san said with­out hes­i­ta­tion.

Fair enough, but is num­ber one in the Australian mar­ket still on the Hino agenda? Si­lence for a mo­ment. “Yes,” he replied sharply. When? “In five years.” As al­ways, time will tell. Right now, though, Steve Lot­ter and his team at HMSA have far more im­me­di­ate mat­ters in mind, and the most im­me­di­ate of all is to make the most of the new 500 Se­ries wide-cab mod­els.

It has, in fact, been a long time be­tween drinks for new prod­ucts at HMSA, with the last new model in­tro­duc­tion be­ing the 300-se­ries light-duty range back in 2011.

Not sur­pris­ingly, the ex­cite­ment and en­ergy within Hino’s up­per ranks at the launch of these 500 Se­ries trucks was un­de­ni­able. Boosted by an up­beat, big-bud­get mar­ket­ing cam­paign, it was also to­tally un­der­stand­able.

These lat­est mod­els are, af­ter all, a long-over­due and hugely wel­come ad­di­tion to a brand which has strug­gled to main­tain sales mo­men­tum over re­cent years, and Hino is in­tent on mak­ing plenty of noise about their ar­rival.

Mak­ing no se­cret of the com­pany’s com­pet­i­tive need for trucks of this cal­i­bre, a forth­right Steve Lot­ter con­ceded dur­ing a pre-drive pre­sen­ta­tion of the 500 Se­ries wide-cab mod­els that 2016 was not a mem­o­rable year for HMSA. Yes, it held on to num­ber two in the total Australian truck mar­ket, but the gap be­tween Isuzu at the top and run­nerup Hino grew dis­turbingly wider.

All up, Isuzu de­liv­ered 8307 trucks for a 25.2 per cent take of last year’s total truck mar­ket, whereas Hino de­liv­ered 4405 units for 13.4 per cent.

Ar­guably the big­gest con­cern is not the vi­sion of Isuzu streak­ing fur­ther into the dis­tance, but the

“Would we like more prod­uct from Ja­pan? Of course we would”

view over the shoul­der as Fuso drew per­ilously closer to sec­ond spot with 11.1 per cent of the total mar­ket and again kept Hino in third place in the fiercely fought light-duty league.

Wor­ry­ingly, while both Isuzu and Fuso sold more trucks in 2016 com­pared to the pre­vi­ous year, Hino sold a hand­ful less.

Con­se­quently, there’s a lot swing­ing on the suc­cess of the new 500 Se­ries wide-cab mod­els – not to just hold Hino’s cur­rent place on the over­all leader board, but to ar­rest the trend of the past few years and ac­tu­ally put the brand back on a growth path.

Again, time will tell, but from what we’ve seen and driven so far, the new trucks are a huge step in the right di­rec­tion, with loads more mus­cle and a suite of smart safety ini­tia­tives.

FRESH START

De­spite the some­what con­fus­ing word­ing that can in­fer these trucks have a new, wider cab, the cab ac­tu­ally re­tains the same gen­er­ous di­men­sions of the first 500 Se­ries wide-cab mod­els launched a decade ago.

There is, how­ever, no con­fu­sion in the re­lease of a model range, with a swathe of new and highly func­tional fea­tures in­clud­ing en­hanced 8- and 9-litre en­gines, ex­panded man­ual and au­to­matic trans­mis­sion op­tions, nu­mer­ous drive train devel­op­ments, im­proved chas­sis de­sign, and safety ad­vances headed by the stan­dard fit­ment of a Wabco ve­hi­cle sta­bil­ity con­trol (VSC) sys­tem in all mod­els.

The stan­dard in­clu­sion of VSC across the new range is “an Australian first for this class”, Hino prod­uct strat­egy man­ager Daniel Petro­vski says.

Yet with a stan­dard safety list also con­tain­ing ABS anti-lock, ASR skid con­trol, a driver’s side airbag, re­vers­ing cam­era, an ‘Easy Start’ hill-hold func­tion for man­ual mod­els, and a cab meet­ing Euro­pean crash test stan­dards, Hino boasts it has the most com­pre­hen­sive ac­tive safety pack­age of any Ja­panese truck in the medium-duty cat­e­gory.

Avail­able in 2- and 3-axle con­fig­u­ra­tions, the new trucks of­fer gross ve­hi­cle mass (GVM) rat­ings from 16 to 18 and 26 tonnes, and gross com­bi­na­tion mass (GCM) rat­ings from 32 to 45 tonnes.

“These trucks are a game changer for us,” an em­phatic Steve Lot­ter said, “and we now of­fer the broad­est

“It’s un­der­neath where the great­est changes have been made”

range of trucks in these im­por­tant mar­ket seg­ments that strad­dle Aus­tralia’s com­pet­i­tive medium- and heavy-duty mar­kets.

“By in­creas­ing the model range, it pro­vides us with an op­por­tu­nity to en­gage in dif­fer­ent ap­pli­ca­tions which pre­vi­ously hasn’t been pos­si­ble.”

The new trucks are eas­ily dis­tin­guished from the out­go­ing wide-cab mod­els and, like­wise, from the FC, FD and FE medium-duty spe­cial­ists sport­ing Hino’s nar­rower ‘stan­dard cab’.

The most no­table ex­ter­nal change is in a bold, dark grille but there are also rel­a­tively sub­tle changes in ar­eas such as cab steps. On the in­side, the changes are less ap­par­ent, with a new ra­dio and re­designed dig­i­tal dash be­ing the most ob­vi­ous.

How­ever, it’s un­der­neath where the great­est changes have been made, led by fur­ther de­vel­op­ment of Hino’s 7.7-litre J08E en­gi­nee and its 8.9-litre sta­ble­mate, the A09C.

In the case of the 6-cylin­der J08E, max­i­mum gov­erned en­gine speed and com­pres­sion ra­tio have been raised to de­liver peak out­puts of 206kW (280hp) at 2500rpm and top torque of 883Nm (651ft-lb) at 1500rpm.

Depend­ing on the model, trans­mis­sion choices are an Al­li­son 6-speed auto, Hino 6-speed man­ual, or an Ea­ton 9-speed di­rect-drive man­ual. As for the A09C, also a 6-cylin­der lay­out, Hino says it con­tains a new tur­bocharger, re­vised wa­ter pump and cool­ing fan, and a swap from Bosch to Denso com­mon-rail fuel in­jec­tion.

It’s an en­gine of­fer­ing two per­for­mance rat­ings start­ing with 235kW (320hp) and 1275Nm (940ft-lb) cou­pled to an Al­li­son au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, and a lively 257kW (350hp) rat­ing sup­ported by a po­tent 1422Nm (1049ft-lb) of torque stir­ring through a Hino 9-speed over­drive syn­chro­mesh trans­mis­sion.

Crit­i­cally, Hino says, both en­gines greatly ben­e­fit from the adop­tion of an SCR emis­sions sys­tem in­stead of the pre­vi­ous EGR and diesel par­tic­u­late fil­ter com­bi­na­tion to achieve Euro 5 emis­sions com­pli­ance.

Sev­eral of the mod­els pro­vided for drives dur­ing the launch of the new trucks were equipped with the Hino 9-speed syn­chro­mesh man­ual shifter. Op­er­at­ing on a dou­ble-H (H-over-H) shift pat­tern, the Hino box wisely comes with an elec­tronic con­trol unit which won’t al­low shifts into low range if road speed is above 30km/h, and a beeper which sounds when the range change but­ton is used.

As a Hino op­er­a­tive ex­plained, it’s all about pro­tect­ing the en­gine from over-speed­ing in the event of an ac­ci­den­tal down­shift through the syn­chro box to a gear that’s sim­ply too low.

Akin to Hino’s light-duty hy­brid model, man­ual ver­sions of the new 500 Se­ries trucks are also equipped with an en­gine stop-start sys­tem to en­hance fuel ef­fi­ciency by switch­ing the en­gine off when it would be oth­er­wise idling.

The stop-start sys­tem is only ac­ti­vated when the dash-mounted con­trol switch is ‘on’, the truck is sta­tion­ary, the trans­mis­sion is in neu­tral, and the park brake is en­gaged. Con­versely, the en­gine au­to­mat­i­cally restarts when the clutch pedal is depressed.

MODEL LINE-UP

Mean­time, GH and FM mod­els are now also equipped with cross diff locks as stan­dard equip­ment.

Im­por­tantly, the new mod­els also have a wider front axle with a tighter wheel cut an­gle, while at the back end elec­tron­i­cally con­trolled air sus­pen­sion (ECAS) is avail­able on mod­els with Hen­drick­son’s HAS air bag rear sus­pen­sion.

A quick sum­mary of the model line-up is:

• FG 1628 4x2: A 280hp (206kW) unit with the choice of a 6-speed man­ual or 6-speed Al­li­son auto, and rat­ings of 16 tonnes GVM and 32 tonnes GCM

• FL 2628 6x2: A 280hp (206kW) model fit­ted with the 6-speed Al­li­son auto, and weight rat­ings of 26 tonnes GVM and 38 tonnes GCM

• FM 2628 6x4: An­other 280hp (206kW) model but of­fer­ing an Ea­ton 9-speed man­ual or the 6-speed Al­li­son. Rat­ings are 26 tonnes GVM and GCM of 33 tonnes with the auto box and 38 tonnes with the man­ual

• FM 2632 6x4: A model with 320hp (235kW) and the 6-speed Al­li­son auto. Rat­ings are 26 tonnes GVM and 36.5 tonnes GCM

• FM 2635 6x4: Flag­ship of the range, this 350hp (257kW) sixwheeler is cou­pled to Hino’s 9-speed over­drive man­ual trans­mis­sion. Weight rat­ings are 26 tonnes GVM and 45 tonnes GCM

• GH 1828 4x2: This 280hp (209kW) model has the choice of an Ea­ton 9-speed man­ual or 6-speed Al­li­son auto, with a stan­dard GVM of 16 tonnes and an op­tional 18 tonnes. GCM is 38 tonnes • GH 1832 4x2: A 320hp (235kW) model cou­pled to the 6-speed Al­li­son auto, and also of­fer­ing two GVM rat­ings of 16 tonnes and an op­tional 18 tonnes, along with a GCM of 38 tonnes

• GH 1835 4x2: The ‘flyer’ of the pack with 350hp (257kW) and Hino’s 9-speed over­drive man­ual. Again, there are two GVM rat­ings of 16 and 18 tonnes, and GCM of 38 tonnes.

DRIVE TIME

Keen and con­fi­dent to de­mon­strate the strength and ver­sa­til­ity of its new mod­els, Hino as­sem­bled a wide cross-sec­tion of par­tially loaded trucks for a com­pre­hen­sive drive pro­gram that ranged from sub­ur­ban slogs to free­way cruis­ing and re­gional back­roads.

But first things first: The drive pro­gram ac­tu­ally started with a 4x2 cab-chas­sis model do­ing laps on the skid pan of Syd­ney Mo­tor­sport Park at East­ern Creek, where the VSC sys­tem kept the truck com­pletely un­der con­trol no mat­ter how hard some tried to get the truck side­ways. And be­lieve me, some tried very hard, so no mat­ter how you weigh it up, adding VSC to the stan­dard fea­tures list is a sig­nif­i­cant ad­van­tage for Hino.

Mean­time, with well-spaced driver changeover points, four dif­fer­ent mod­els were able to be driven, which in our case started with a GH 1832 auto run through the filthy traf­fic of western Syd­ney and the woe­ful Pen­nant Hills Road. An hour or so be­hind the wheel can’t re­veal ev­ery­thing about a truck, but the 1832 at least de­fined a model with am­ple power for haulin’ through the ‘burbs and high­lighted the value of ex­pand­ing the avail­abil­ity of Al­li­son’s su­per-slick au­to­matic in the new 500 Se­ries mod­els.

Se­ri­ously, if your daily grind is fer­ry­ing freight in a rigid truck around crowded cities and sub­urbs, the mod­ern-day Al­li­son auto is by far the best op­tion.

The next truck was the GH 1835, big brother of the 1832, and, as the run north up the M1 Mo­tor­way and into the bur­geon­ing Cen­tral Coast quickly re­vealed, this is the flyer of the Hino fleet. At this point it’s also worth men­tion­ing that these two mod­els are among a few of­fer­ing the choice of a multi-leaf rear sus­pen­sion or Hen­drick­son’s HAS air bag lay­out with elec­tronic height con­trol.

With the tall over­drive top gear of Hino’s 9-speed syn­chro­mesh box feed­ing into an 8.9-litre en­gine with po­tent power and torque out­puts, the GH 1835 is a truck ob­vi­ously de­signed more for re­gional runs than city snarls. Plen­ti­ful power and a gritty will­ing­ness to dig deep into the rev range saw the partly loaded 1835 hold top gear on the long slog up Joll’s Bridge from the Hawkes­bury River. Im­pres­sive!

As for Hino’s 9-speed man­ual box, shifts are a tad on the heavy side as you might ex­pect in a com­pletely new truck but, over­all, it’s an easy trans­mis­sion to use and with plenty of power on tap, skip shifts in the bot­tom half of the box are com­fort­ably ac­com­mo­dated.

Next truck was the 6x4 FM 2632, lit­tle brother to the FM 2635.

These two mod­els also of­fer the choice of me­chan­i­cal or air rear sus­pen­sions and, like their GH 4x2 coun­ter­parts, the ’32 uses an Al­li­son auto while the ’35 comes with Hino’s 9-speed man­ual.

On an easy route, mainly run­ning up the M1 Mo­tor­way, the 2632 sat com­fort­ably at 100km/h and, like its sib­lings, sim­ply did the job with a min­i­mum of fuss and noise.

The fi­nal run of the day was in the baby of the bunch, the FG 1628 equipped with Hino’s 6-speed over­drive man­ual. This 280hp model also of­fers the 6-speed Al­li­son auto and, while the man­ual ver­sion was easy and un­com­pli­cated on the last leg over pot­ted coun­try back­roads, it’s a model that would un­ques­tion­ably ben­e­fit from the auto op­tion in city and sub­ur­ban work.

In sum­mary, af­ter driv­ing Hino’s new 500 Se­ries wide-cab mod­els, it’s easy to ap­pre­ci­ate the com­pany’s strong con­fi­dence that bet­ter times are ahead.

As sev­eral in­sid­ers agreed dur­ing the drive pro­gram, these trucks are just what Hino needs to take the fight to the com­pe­ti­tion rather than just stand­ing back and cop­ping the blows.

Even so, it’s un­likely Hino will be changing out of its brides­maid out­fit any­time soon, but this time around it’s sport­ing an en­sem­ble sure to get plenty of looks from the boys and girls with the bucks.

“The mod­ern-day Al­li­son auto is by far the best op­tion”

Other than the dash lay­out, changes on the in­side are few. The big changes are un­der­neath and, wisely, avail­abil­ity of Al­li­son’s slick six-speed au­to­matic has been ex­panded

A re­vers­ing cam­era is one of many in­no­va­tive stan­dard fea­tures in the lat­est Hino mod­els

Plenty of punch. Hino GH 1835 model sports 350hp and an over­drive 9-speed man­ual box. Good spec for a re­gional run­ner

Hino Mo­tor Sales Aus­tralia chief Steve Lot­ter. “These trucks are a game changer for us.”

Face up. Bold new grille sig­nals a much stronger range of Hino 500 Se­ries wide­cab mod­els

Among a suite of safety fea­tures and a first for Ja­panese trucks in this class, a ve­hi­cle sta­bil­ity con­trol sys­tem is stan­dard on Hino’s new 500 Se­ries wide cab range

Part of Hino’s new 500 Se­ries line-up dur­ing a re­cent drive pro­gram. There was plenty to like

Hino Mo­tors manag­ing of­fi­cer Kenji Na­gakubo. He am­bi­tiously pre­dicts Hino will be mar­ket leader in five years. Hmmm!

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