With 51 years of sales in the Australian market, Hino is strengthening its presence.
The old adage about leading your horse to water but not being able to make it drink could be likened to overseas truck manufacturers offering their products to the Australian market and then finding nobody is in a buying mood.
Brand loyalty means a lot to the Australian buyer, and, as some of the Chinese manufacturers are finding to their cost, we don’t just buy on price, we buy on the combination of overall cost of life, durability, parts availability, customer service and support. Despite the wishes of the Chinese manufacturers to be an overnight success, most of those that have tried a toe in the water exercise have headed back home with unfulfilled dreams of success.
With Australia being the most competitive truck market in the world, attracting products from Eastern and Western Europe, United Kingdom, Japan, North America, China, Russia, South Korea, Thailand, Mexico and South America, success doesn’t just come overnight.
Hino has been patiently building its brand presence and modifying its operating structure over half a century, undoubtedly helped by the close relationship it has with the global Toyota family. The Hino product range we see in Australia today has expanded and improved progressively and now ranks well with a broad product portfolio against the other major brands.
PowerTorque Magazine recently joined the Hino executive team to discuss the company growth this year, as well as review some of its latest initiatives that support the brand in the hearts and minds of its customers.
Hino CEO and president, Steve Lotter, believes the economy has actually fared better than originally forecast, with more growth than expected, especially in NSW and Victoria.
“We have no control over the economy, the market and the currency. As a country we seem to be transitioning well from the mining boom to the construction boom, both for infrastructure and housing.
“We can see clear trends with light-duty sales up a further 9.0 percent this year, medium-duty up another 7.0 percent and the heavy-down by 4.0 percent. The fall in the A$ has increased competition for all manufacturers and importers in what is the most competitive market for trucks in the world.
“We believe the government could do more to promote the truck industry with incentives to reduce the average age of trucks on our roads from 15 years versus fewer than 10 for most developed countries. New trucks are certainly safer and greener, and either a carrot or stick approach by government to encourage operators to update their fleets would be beneficial to the environment,” Mr. Lotter added.
Hino has been expanding on a global basis, and production for the Australian market will be shortly moved from the original factory at Hino City to a new facility at Koga. Due to open officially in October of this year, the Koga plant will be the centre for production of the 500 and 700-Series.
The company in Australia is in the middle of a three-year strategy that it calls Customer Connect, to grow its operation through to 2020 by offering improved customer service support, lower parts pricing, fixed-price servicing and faster, more efficient dealer servicing to reduce downtime and maximise total cost of operation (TCO).
As Greg Bleasel, general manager of product support explained: “We’ve invested heavily in our people and processes, and our premises. Most importantly, our Hino dealer network is investing heavily in new facilities and upgrades to meet our plans.
“The strategies we use will put more value into the Hino vehicle, in particular our market-oriented pricing for parts, fixed-price servicing and efficiency to enable us to be more effective and competitive.”
Parts pricing with genuine factory approved parts has been reduced on average by 24 percent, with general service items such as a replacement disc rotor dropping by 16 percent to $198.35, and a corresponding brake pad price drop by 21 percent to $177.95. The use of genuine parts also attracts three year unlimited warranty support when installed by an authorised Hino service technician.
Fixed-price minor servicing extends to all Euro 5-compliant Hino 300, 500 and 700-Series vehicles, where maintenance intervals for an A, B or C service are set at 20,000 km. Charges begin at $559 for the 300-Series (N04C), $669 for the 500-Series (J07E) and $869 for the 700-Series (E13 – FS, SS, SH). It includes comprehensive vehicle inspection and diagnostic checks, engine oil and filter replacement, fuel filter replacement, and vehicle greasing and tyre rotation by a professional factory-trained Hino service technician.
Time and motion studies of the work completed by a service technician during scheduled maintenance have resulted in a specific design for the layout of the tools and equipment used in the service bay at a designated Hino dealership. Efficiency gains include a reduction in distance walked by the technician of 50 percent and an overall time saving of 25 percent.
As outlined by Bill Gillespie, Hino Australia general manager of brand and franchise development, the demand for Hino products such as the medium-duty 500 Series range increased by almost 6.0 percent in the first half of this year, with Australian truck buyers taking delivery of 1117 vehicles.
“Demand for the 500-Series FE Automatic variants has been particularly strong, leading to minor supply constraints, but Hino is particularly upbeat about the total market in the second half of 2016.
“The preference for automatic transmission is currently running in excess of 50 percent, but market forecasts predict this will rise to exceed 80 percent of all sales, within the next five years.
“Dealer investment in new premises and facilities is commensurately high in anticipation of increased market growth, with total investment over the next three to four years forecast to exceed $45-million nationally. We have 43 full service dealers, 23 parts and service additional outlets, plus we are opening a further three new sites on the eastern seaboard at Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney,” Mr. Gillespie added.
Demand in the first seven months of this year has also exceeded supply for the Hino 300-Series truck range. Supply constraints from Japan, due to strong demand from global markets, restricted availability, resulting in lower than expected sales of 2455 trucks during this period. This result was 2.97 percent beneath the all-time six-month record set by Hino the previous year.
The hybrid technology offered today by Toyota and used also with Lexus was derived from hybrid programmes initiated with Hino buses back in the early 1980s. There are specific applications that suit hybrid trucks, especially those used in hilly areas around our major cities. Independent testing of hybrid commercial vehicles in 2012 showed a 21 percent average saving in fuel, CO2 emissions and costs for a pick-up and delivery operation in the Sydney metropolitan area.
While on the subject of the 300-Series, this is the first light-duty truck range to feature a reverse camera as standard equipment. The reverse cameras are ADR-compliant, waterproof and offer wide view high-definition quality vision. The cameras are also infrared night-vision enabled and have the added benefit of a built-in microphone, providing a sound link from the rear of the vehicle.
Hino Australia manager of product strategy, Daniel Petrovski, told PowerTorque that reverse cameras are a logical addition to the standard safety specification of the 300-Series, which is already equipped with cruise control, dual SRS airbags, ultra-narrow A-pillars, ABS brakes and vehicle stability control. Further potential blind-spot camera views can also be added to the dashboard screen display.
Hino has also plugged another gap in its product range with the release shortly of a 4×4 version of the 300-Series. The all-wheel-drive version is aimed at he Rural Fire Services and local landscape suppliers, parks and wildlife organisations and the all-terrain motorhome market.
Even the most reliable truck on the market can be expected to have the occasional problem, and the way that the manufacturer supports the brand has an overwhelming impact on future customer purchase strategies.
Hino now has a dedicated in-house customer care centre up and running, serving as the contact point for customers contacting the company through email, phone and social media channels.
“This is much more than a call centre, it is a complete in-house support solution for all our customers and their businesses through every stage of truck ownership, with extended opening hours from 8:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. AEST Monday to Friday,” said Bill Gillespie.
In addition to the Customer Care Centre, the Hino Advantage suite of services includes business benefits such as an extended five-year warranty, financial services, roadside assistance, fleet training, factory-trained dealership technicians and access to Hino Genuine parts and accessories.
People make a difference, and well-trained people, make a bigger difference. In this area, Hino Australia has strengthened its customer focus by creating a comprehensive sales training programme for the sales staff at its dealerships.
“It’s all about ensuring our dealership sales managers and consultants have the knowledge and skills needed to ensure they are not just selling a truck, but are instead providing a total transport solution to each customer,” said Steve Lotter.
“Our training process therefore focuses not just on our products, but also on building the analysis skills of our sales staff, which enables them to find the right transport solutions that are fit for purpose and best suited to each individual business’s unique needs,” Mr. Lotter said.