Truck maker Hino is grounded in rich tradition as it eyes sales boost
Hino celebrated its 75th anniversary last year and its history goes beyond just trucks
Hino has been in SA since 1972 and has always been a strong competitor in the truck market. The company has big plans to accelerate its strategy here including a mission to become the top-selling truck brand through expansion of its model range with new models and entry into new segments.
Many people are unaware of the history of the brand, which falls under the umbrella of Toyota. It started out as the Tokyo Gas Electric Engineering Company (Gasuden) in 1917.
Isamu Hoshiko, who is considered the father of the Hino brand, had joined this company as its technical officer for automobile development, and in that year it produced the first local trucks in Japan that went on sale to the public.
Working with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Gasuden developed a range of standard trucks under the Isuzu brand name in 1932.
The corporate name was changed to Tokyo Automobile Industry in 1937 and to Diesel Motor Company in 1941.
Its factory was in the Hino area of Tokyo.
The following year Diesel Motor Industry, which was making Isuzu trucks, was split off from a new entity, named Hino Heavy Industries, and the Hino truck brand was born, based at the Hino City factory.
The 75th anniversary of Hino as a standalone truck band was celebrated in 2017.
What many people have been unaware of, including us previously here at Motor News, is that Hino even made a brief sortie into building and selling cars in 1953, starting with a tie-up with Renault.
It later developed its own range of cars, called Hino Contessa, and a bakkie, the Briska.
The company, which was renamed Hino Motors in 1959, set up a business partnership with Toyota that included building Hilux bakkies. The company stopped building cars under its own name in 1967, but continues contract assembly for Toyota at its Hamura plant, with Toyota models made there currently being the Land Cruiser Prado and Dyna light truck.
Hino’s own focus has been on designing and making trucks and buses since 1967. It became a subsidiary of Toyota Motor Corporation in 2001 and its cumulative unit sales reached 3-million units in 2009.
Over the years it has made many important technological advances, the most noteworthy being production of the world’s first diesel-electric bus, the Hybrid Inverter-controlled Motor and Retarder in 1991 — six years before Toyota launched its Prius hybrid passenger car.
It also entered the Dakar Rally for the first time that year and has continued to do so every year since then.
It developed the world’s first engine equipped with electronically controlled, common rail fuel injection — the J08C — in 1995. Another breakthrough came in 2010 when several of its buses using fuel cells went into service on Tokyo airport routes.
Diesel-electric hybrid powertrains have been expanded to include trucks and by 2012 more than 10,000 Hino hybrids had been sold, while a full electric Poncho bus went into pilot service that same year.
The company has put increasing focus on exports in recent years and in 2007 the cumulative total of its vehicles exported from Japan, either built up or in kits, exceeded 1-million units. The number of exports also exceeded sales on the Japanese domestic market for the first time in 2007.
It now exports its trucks and buses to more than 90 countries worldwide and operates four plants in Japan as well as several full-scale manufacturing facilities in other countries, including Thailand, Pakistan, China and the US.
In addition, it exports semi-knocked-down or knocked-down kits to several other countries for local assembly, including SA, where it began assembly of the new 500 Wide Cab variants in 2017.