If ever there was an Australian truck brand who’s executives were basking in the glow of success, it might just be Hino. The success of the 500-Series Standard cab has them now looking for similar sales boosts with other models.
For example, in Victoria the 500-Series is now the market leader in medium duty. It is inspiring them to aim for being the number one brand in medium duty nationally within the next 12 months.
Hino’s Bill Gillespie is the general manager of brand and franchise development, and Big Rigs met with him recently to get the company’s reading of market moves and product planning.
Firstly Bill confirmed that the latest spec improvements to the 700-Series are the last scheduled tweaks before the arrival of the completely new model in 2021. We can expect an all-new cab, significant engine developments, and a complete electronic package to bring the truck up to Euro standards. Don’t be surprised to see some form of alternative fuel or even hybrid options around that time either.
There will be more chassis variants to the 500-Series as well. The sales success is sparking interest with fleets that want the same features across other application requirements, and in the truck business, fleet requirements are ignored at the peril of the manufacturer.
A direct competitor has sparked a move by Hino to install the safety package in the 300-Series sooner than later. We can expect that upgrade in the next six months or so.
However, our discussion focused more on logistics transport than the trucks themselves, and there are some major shifts in the task that will mould product and features even more than driver or operator preferences.
Hino is regularly talking to customers that are trying to solve the challenge of “the last 50-metzres” when it comes to urban delivery. In particular, the growth of home grocery delivery is causing heartache with inner-city deliveries, where parking is non-existent, roads are often narrow and clogged with resident’s cars on permits, and even the smallest truck causes a jam when a driver has to get out and take deliveries to three or four apartments in one building. Of course, that’s when the lift breaks down too.
Additionally, inner-city types want their order at a time convenient to them - mid-day doesn’t work, mornings they’re out early anyway, and evenings means the clatter of freezer units pounding away and the beep of the reversing alarm drives them nuts.
At the last meeting Hino had with Woollies Home Delivery, trucks weren’t mentioned once - it was all about the task and how to solve it.
Electric is clearly a way to go, but critical temperature control is power hungry, and existing battery capacities fall short. Adding even a small battery boost costs payload, and that torpedo’s the business model.
Current technology means idle time costs Woollies over $1m a year in fuel. I asked Bill if Hino is working at re-mapping the existing hybrid to extend battery support when stationary. He didn’t say yes – but he didn’t say no either.