UD trucks have never been a glamorous breed, but they do have a reputation for doing the job well and the latest release from the Japanese truck maker, the ‘PW’, looks to be a case in point.
Some truck purchases are made because the vehicle looks great and has all of the bells and whistles, but many more are made because the model is simply a solution to a problem, something which will get the job done in the best way possible. UD purchases, generally, fall into the latter category. These are practical trucks designed and built to handle specific tasks in specific conditions, in a safe and efficient manner.
This is exactly where the new PW from UD Trucks sits, at the light end of the heavy-duty truck market is a large market segment, very effectively catered to by the likes of Isuzu and others. Often, the need is for a 6×4 chassis, a basic cabin, low tare and sufficient power and torque, a PTO and a chassis capable of taking a variety of body fitments.
In the past, UD could supply trucks either side of this segment, a compact and flexible 6×2, or a 6×4 with enough power, but also with a chassis which was a bit too heavy. With many of the trucks sold by UD being adaptations of models originally designed for the Japanese domestic market, there was no direct equivalent to our requirements in this very precise sub-segment of heavy duty.
It was on one of his visits to the UD factory at Ageo in Tokyo when Australian UD Design Engineer, Ben Chamberlin, came across a number of development models being examined. A quick walk around the yard showed him there were, in the UD components catalogue, the basic ingredients for a light heavy-duty 6×4 which would slot right into the Australian fleet.
For all of the Australian arms of the Japanese truck manufacturers, the development of new models is a long drawn out negotiation to convince the engineers in Tokyo to combine the constituent parts in such a way to make something that may not seem logical in Japanese eyes, but could suit Australian conditions.
Changes in the structure of the UD organisation globally are likely to affect the way UD will be able to operate in Australia in the future. The overall system is looking to build generic models in large numbers for the larger markets, but there is a provision for ‘special build’ models to be developed in relatively smaller numbers.
Luckily for UD in Australia, the size of our market means developing a truck for a number of segments will only sell in numbers below 400 a year, regarded by Japan as a special build and not mass production. By running their model development through the UD special-build program, it has been possible to create tailor-made solutions to sell, with modest sales growth possible within these production limitations.
This separate development system also has the advantage of speeding up the process. Once the original concept was approved for design, it took twelve months before two prototypes were built for initial testing and then just six months to the point where it was being launched on the market. This is considerably faster than many other manufacturers.