Could Hino’s US built conventional trucks be on the shopping list for Hino Australia?
During a recent trip to the USA conversation turned to whether the Hino 600 Series and the new heavy duty X7 and X8 conventionals would find a market in Australia The Hino conventionals have found a strong and ready market in the USA and bolstered Hino’s presence and sales in that market. It gives the Toyota owned truck maker a point of difference from its Japanese rivals Isuzu and Fuso. Clearly it would also give the brand a similar niche to itself if it were to market the conventional range down under.
The biggest hurdle for Hino Australia however is the fact that the Hino conventionals are unique to North America and are manufactured in the company’s West Virginia factory in left hand drive only.
TTA knows that a plan was hatched by then Hino boss Roger Hall to assemble right hand drive Hino conventionals from CKD kits here in Australia around 2006 and the plan very nearly got up. The stumbling block was the cost when the Australian Dollar was worth between 50 and 60 cents US making the proposition uncompetitive for what would be a relatively low volume.
However the burgeoning Hino conventional range in the US, a more competitive dollar now worth close to 80 cents and a desire to find niches that Isuzu and Fuso can’t explore may have a conventional model back on the table at Hino Australia.
When Truck and Bus News spoke with Hino general manager of Brand and Network development Bill Gillespie, he did not rule out the fact that the conventional product had been under consideration saying that the Australian operation was in constant contact with other key Hino markets around the world and always looking at possibilities.
“We have looked at the bonneted Hinos from the States before and the cost has always been prohibitive, not to mention the fact that it is only produced in left hand drive which makes it difficult,” said Gillespie.
“However you can never rule anything out, the bonneted Hinos are on the table and we are constantly monitoring the viability and potential, at this stage there is no firm plan but that doesn’t mean there won’t be one in the future,” he added.
“It could open up sales niches for us as it would be the only Japanese conventional in the market and it would have appeal in a range of specialist applications,” he said.
With the new X7 and X8 heavy-duty conventionals Hino has pushed up into the top end of the medium duty market and the lower end of heavy duty augmenting its presence with its medium duty conventionals originally dubbed the 600 series.
Many fleets and buyers who may not have considered Hino could be attracted by a Japanese conventional with the reliability and quality reputation that comes with that. Similarly buyers of Japanese trucks who have been locked into cab overs would potentially look at the Hino conventionals for applications where front axle limits are critical and also in uses where drivers have to exit and enter frequently. Conventionals are clearly much easier to enter and exit the cab, with a lower cab height while they have less trouble coming in below the 6.5 tonne front axle weight limit.
Don’t hold your breath but maybe; just maybe a bonneted Hino may have a future in Australia if al the planets align.