"There is a significant swing by the operators of trucks in South Africa towards alternative transmissions instead of a manual gearbox," says Ernie Trautmann, Vice President of Hino SA. Speaking at a media briefing at the Nampo agricultural show in Bothaville he went on to say: "Hino has the route of offering a fully automatic transmission instead of automated manual transmission (AMT)."
"What is very important for a truck operator is the fact that comparative tests have shown that Hino 300-Series truck fitted with a six-speed fully automatic transmission is, on average, significantly more economical than a similar truck fitted with AMT. We conducted an in-house test over three different routes and then had the results verified by an independent party using proper test equipment. Fuel costs can equate to between 40-60% of truck operating costs, depending on the type of operation, so we are delighted with the results of this fuel economy comparison.
"Hino is the only Japanese truck manufacturer offering a fully automatic transmission in the medium category and will extend this option to its 500-Series heavy trucks when a new model is introduced to South Africa in the last quarter of this year. The new range will also provide us with a 6x4 model which we have not had before," added Trautmann.
Pre-production build of the new 500-Series truck is already under way at the Hino SA manufacturing facility in Prospecton This is taking place earlier than usual as several new build processes are required. Technical teams from Hino factories in Japan and Thailand are assisting in the setting up of the assembly requirements for the new truck which has been in development for the past five years.
Shegeki Hagiwara, the Hino chief engineer for medium duty trucks, was in South Africa with senior members of his product development team to meet customers and dealers while overseeing the pre-production build of his new truck range.
"The launch of the new 500-Series Hino will be the first model introduction where we are able to offer our range of service and full maintenance plans as well as extended warranties which were developed last year in conjunction with Toyota Financial Services," added Trautmann.
"We are already getting increasing take up on these important after-sales offerings and our aim is to sell a service or maintenance plan to at least 10% of the buyers of the new model. Trucks covered by Hino service and maintenance plans also open up growing possibilities for increasing buy-backs which are attractive to many operators."
Hino and its network of 65 dealers countrywide is continuing to focus on promoting and implementing its value-added after-sales offerings namely Hino service and maintenance plans, 2-year parts warranty and extended vehicle warranty which are increasingly important to truck operators in these tough economic times. Toyota Financial Services is backing up the Hino SA team and is already financing more than 30% of sales. Developing a used truck franchise is another project currently in the mill with the Hino SA team.
"Offering servicing and repairs after normal business hours is a growing trend in the local truck market and many Hino dealers already offer after hours servicing on weekdays as well as on Saturdays, while some of them are already offering 24/7 servicing by appointment," said Trautmann.
The Hino Vice President also gave the journalists at Nampo an insight into the company's learnership programme for attracting younger people to work at Hino dealerships. The programme began in February and has 12 delegates who spend one week a month at the Toyota Academy of Learning in Sandton and the remainder of the month in their dealerships. The scheme has been accepted so enthusiastically that dealers want it to be offered every year instead of the planned two-year cycle. Delegates sign a contract with their dealership to stay with them for at least two years after completing the learnership.
"This is a very positive step as our research has shown that more than 70% of Hino sales volume is concluded by salespersons who are 50 years or older," explained Trautmann. "We need to attract younger people into the trucking business as many of our current sales force will be retiring."
Commenting on the truck market this year the Hino Vice President said that sales in the first quarter were better than expected showing the industry was surprisingly resilient.
"Public holidays impacted on sales in April, but combining truck sales for March and April this year and comparing them with the combined figures for these two months last year there is not a big difference in volume. We, at Hino, are still sticking with our original prediction of a market of 26 500 trucks and buses this year, which is still below a market of 30 000 plus units which is what we really need to grow the industry," explained Trautmann.