Re­vamped stal­wart set to be un­leashed

IN­DUS­TRY NEWS/ Hino is ramp­ing up pro­duc­tion of its new 500 range which is head­ing to SA

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS - Mo­tor News Re­porter

The Hino truck brand may be 75 years old, but the heavy and ex­tra-heavy truck man­u­fac­turer is cer­tainly mov­ing ahead strongly in the 21st cen­tury. Pro­duc­tion is in­creas­ing, ex­ports are grow­ing, a hi-tech fac­tory has been com­mis­sioned and an im­por­tant new-gen­er­a­tion Hino 500 range is be­ing rolled out world­wide.

PRO­TO­TYPE UNITS

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 the main­stay of many fleets, is be­ing re­placed by a new model. It will go into pro­duc­tion in Novem­ber at Hino SA’s fac­tory at Prospec­ton, near Dur­ban. Sev­eral prelaunch events are un­der way us­ing pre­pro­duc­tion pro­to­type units.

South African truck­ing jour­nal­ists vis­ited Hino Mo­tors in Ja­pan re­cently to learn first­hand about the new model.

They were driven around a test track in the new 500 and were given a pre­view tour of the mod­ern Koga plant, north of Tokyo, prior to its of­fi­cial open­ing later in 2017.

The new range of Hino 500 trucks is the re­sult of many years’ 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 took five years of on­go­ing de­vel­op­ment be­fore it went into pro­duc­tion and was sold first in In­done­sia in 2015.

Mamoru Ta­mazawa, chief en­gi­neer of the so-called “Wide Body” Hino 500, said that the de­sign team’s fo­cus points with the new project were to fur­ther en­hance Hino’s rep­u­ta­tion for out­stand­ing qual­ity, dura­bil­ity and reli­a­bil­ity; and im­prove en­gine per­for­mance in terms of power and torque while cut­ting emis­sions and low­er­ing fuel con­sump­tion. They also aimed at en­sur­ing the new model pro­vides a bet­ter driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in all as­pects, Ta­mazawa said.

The model range has been ex­tended to meet cus­tomer re­quire­ments and in­cludes 6x4 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-tonne to 28-tonne pay­load de­riv­a­tives, while the cur­rent six- and eight­tonne mod­els will be con­tin­u­ing un­changed.

The lat­est gen­er­a­tion is now in pro­duc­tion at a new fac­tory, built on a green­field site in Koga, about 120km north of Tokyo.

This is a high-tech truck man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity with a high pro­por­tion of robo­ti­sa­tion — in­clud­ing 95% of the cab weld­ing and 95% of the paint­ing — to en­sure high­est-qual­ity stan­dards as well as pro­duc­tion con­sis­tency.

MOTHER FAC­TORY

Koga is con­sid­ered the mother fac­tory for Hino’s var­i­ous over­seas op­er­a­tions.

It is the ex­port base for knocked-down and com­pletely knocked-down kits for over­seas assem­bly in 22 coun­tries, in­clud­ing SA. Many of the 2,000 em­ploy­ees at the Koga plant have been re­lo­cated from the Hino City fac­tory along­side the head of­fice in an area of Tokyo that is now mainly res­i­den­tial.

The fac­tory is be­ing closed, as re­stric­tions have been put on fac­tory op­er­at­ing hours and it has no space for ex­pan­sion.

An­other rea­son for the move to a new fac­tory is that it marks a ma­jor in­vest­ment by the com­pany as it ramps up its pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity.

The com­pany is spread­ing its wings in more global mar­kets than the cur­rent 90 coun­tries in which it sells its trucks. This in­volves Hino SA, a mem­ber of the Toy­ota Group, look­ing for more sales in SA, while the com­pany also in­tends es­tab­lish­ing new mar­kets in other sub­Sa­ha­ran coun­tries.

RECORD SALES

In 2016 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 US, with Hino SA in ninth po­si­tion.

“We are see­ing eco­nomic growth in many of our mar­kets but, un­for­tu­nately, not in SA and that’s the rea­son we are pre­dict­ing stronger global sales in 2017 than we had in 2016,” said Toshi­aki Ya­suda, 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.”

Sales of the new model in In­done­sia were up 60% com­pared to those of the pre­vi­ous model over the same pe­riod.

“We are look­ing for­ward to the launch of the new Hino 500 in SA, where it is an im­por­tant model in our range and one of the keys to grow­ing sales in the re­gion,” Ya­suda said.

The new Hino 500. Be­low left: The new Hino man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity in Ja­pan.

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