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Ready for recovery: Hino chugs along as medium-duty market languishes

WOODSTOCK, Ont. - Just how soft is the Canadian medium-duty truck market? Consider that Hino controls about 20% of the Canadian market and built just north of 1,100 units last year and you get the ide...


WOODSTOCK, Ont. –Just how soft is the Canadian medium-duty truck market? Consider that Hino controls about 20% of the Canadian market and built just north of 1,100 units last year and you get the idea.

Still, the company is forging ahead with a new model and plenty of upgrades on its existing trucks in 2011. Hino held an open house at its Woodstock, Ont. assembly plant to show off its 2011 models, including the all-new light-duty Model 198. The 198 is aimed at landscaping, light construction, courier and service vehicle applications and is powered by a six-cylinder, 220-hp Hino engine.

“That new model will fit in well for us at the top end of the Class 5 segment and give us the added power we were looking for,” said Eric Smith, national sales manager with Hino Motors Canada.

In the Class 6 category, the Model 258LP (low profile) and Model 268 fit the bill for towing, beverage, landscaping and delivery applications. Class 7 needs are met with the Models 338 and 358, the latter of which is truly a Class 8 at 35,000 lbs GVW but more suitable for demanding Class 7 applications, Smith noted. This year’s Model 338 was given a power boost (260 hp, 660 lb.-ft. torque) and comes with hydraulic disc brakes while the Model 358 boasts a 14,000-lb front axle and comes with air brakes, a stronger frame and an available air suspension.

All the trucks sold into the Canadian market are assembled at Hino’s Woodstock plant and 53% of the parts are sourced from within North America. Hino officials said the goal is to grow that to 65% as soon as possible. The remaining components, including the cab and engine, are imported from Japan. Cab painting is done on-site at the Woodstock facility’s modification centre.

While the medium-duty market remains sluggish, Hino has been busy improving processes at its plant. The company retrofit all the lights at its plant to fluorescent bulbs, saving about $11,000 a year in energy costs. It now recycles 90% of the water it uses to ‘shower test’ its cabs, saving another $3,000 per year and it has reduced its garbage output by 12 tonnes a year by recycling plastic materials that were previously trashed.

Currently, about 32 Hino workers are building six trucks a day at the Canadian plant. It has the capacity to build 2,000 trucks per year using one shift. Hino Motors Canada president Shin Nakamura, said the goal is to increase Canadian market share to 30% this year.

But while medium-duty sales continue to be slow, don’t expect Hino to go jumping into the Class 8 market anytime soon. Nakamura said while Hino offers Class 8 trucks in Japan and elsewhere, it’s not suitable for North America because the engine is just 450 hp. He also said the EPA2010 emissions rules are the most stringent in the world, so unless Hino sees demand for at least 30,000 Class 8 units in North America, it’ll continue to focus solely on its core business serving the Classes 4-7 segments.


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