The first Hino 500 Wide Cab model rolls off the assembly line at the plant in Durban. Picture: MARK SMYTH
The first Hino 500 Wide Cab model rolls off the assembly line at the plant in Durban. Picture: MARK SMYTH

It was hot in Durban, very hot. So hot in fact that I actually asked at what temperature the employees at the Hino assembly plant are allowed to go home.

Turns out it’s not about the temperature, but the humidity. Of course, those who live in Durban did not really understand why the question was asked, they are used to the heat and, honestly, for the employees it was far too special a day to let a bit of hot air get to them.

It was special because it was the day the first of the new Hino 500 Wide Cab models rolled off the assembly line at the firm’s plant in Prospecton. We first saw the model in Japan before it was unveiled at the Futuroad Expo, part of Automechanika SA recently. The company is expanding the range from just five models in the last generation to 12 in the new model, the first fully new 500 for 14 years.

Ernie Trautmann, vice-president of Hino SA. Picture: MARK SMYTH
Ernie Trautmann, vice-president of Hino SA. Picture: MARK SMYTH

There will now be four 6x2 versions of the regular model, while Wide Cab versions will start from 16-tonne GVM.

There will also be 6x4 models as well as both on-road and off-road cabs. Other cab options include high and low versions.

"The increased Hino 500 range, including 6x4 models, will allow us to compete in many niche segments we were not in previously," says Ernie Trautmann, vice-president of Hino SA.

"The many additional features in the new Hino 500 range, as well as competitive pricing and the bigger line-up, should enable us to regain our dominance in the local heavy commercial vehicle market."

Increasing its presence in the heavy market from the current 18% to 23% is vital for the company, which has publicly declared that it is seeking to be the top-selling truck brand in SA post-2020.

Of course "post-2020" gives the brand an infinite amount of leeway to achieve its goal, but with new models such as the 500 Hino is taking its challenge seriously. It has introduced new automatic transmissions on various model ranges and will add the new 700 Series to the line-up in 2018 as it seeks to increase its share of the extra-heavy market from 4% to 6%.

The importance of the new model to the brand’s strategy was reflected in the number of senior officials in attendance as the first 500 Wide Cab rolled off the line. This included Masamichi Mizukoshi, managing officer of production and production control at Hino Motors Limited. He was joined by other executives from the parent company in Japan as well as customers, dealers, local government officials and union representatives.

The ceremony came after the company invested more than R20m in the facility, which is purely an assembly plant. The kits are imported and then the final assembly takes place on the line, which has existed since 2013 and has an annual production capacity of 5,000 units.

"Hino has been in SA for 45 years and Toyota SA Motors (TSAM) is one of the oldest Hino distributors in the world, so we are pleased to be able to now offer the latest model in the local heavy truck market," says Calvyn Hamman, senior vice-president of sales and marketing at TSAM.

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