Getting it just right making the truck fit the task is the art of truck development. Fuso has come up with a truck model to fill another niche at 11 tonnes gross vehicle mass, Diesel News takes it for a drive.
The Japanese truck makers in the Australian market are able to count their model variants in the hundreds. As a truck buyer, we don’t look at the full 150 variants available when purchasing, we are simply looking for a truck to do a particular task, or set of tasks. In this case, there may be a few to choose from, but often there may just be one to fit the bill.
Identifying that precise model is part of the truck dealers’ skill set. They need to ensure the truck sold to the customer is the right fit and will do the job it is intended for – and do it for a considerable time without any durability issues.
Over time, tasks change, customer expectations rise and new challenges come along. If a task changes, it may not be the case of going up to the next size or mass limit. The truck to fit the new niche may not exist in precisely the form the changing customer needs.
This is where new truck development comes in, and it’s where the product engineers earn their keep. They are looking at a long drawn-out development process – and the truck sales person needs to answer their customer’s questions now.
New models have to go through a process where the initial idea is worked on to come up with the engineering that will make it work. For the truck importer, the engineers need to source any different components from the extensive parts catalogue their parent company holds. Then, the engineers need to ensure any new design will actually work and is compatible with the rest of the truck’s design.
We can take the latest Fuso Fighter model to be introduced to the line-up as an example. The Fighter range runs from trucks at the lighter end of the medium-duty range all the way up to the lighter end of the heavy-duty range. The trucks are mainly 4×2 configuration, but are also available as a 6×2 or a 6×2 at the higher-mass end of the range.
The Fighter comes in three different cabin sizes – the FK, the FM and the FN. The FN is the six-wheeler, the FM is the truck sold around the 16-tonnes gross vehicle mass (GVM) mark and the FK is the truck available in a GVM from 10.4 tonnes up to 14 tonnes.
Obviously, the FK also has the smaller, narrower cab; there is no need for the larger wider FM cabin in this segment. The FK, the highest selling of all of the Fighter range, now has twelve variants.
The new Fighter FK 1124 is one of those models that borrows some elements from the next size up and some from the next size below, to create the kind of hybrid the market is starting to look for. It suits a growing task in the transport industry.
What was the market looking for, which it couldn’t find from Fuso? It liked the smaller cabin and the driver’s seat lower to the ground. All-round visibility was important and the transom window in the passenger door was another element required.
The market was also looking for some items found in heavier trucks, however, such as full air braking. There was also a need for something that is becoming ‘de rigueur’ in many medium-duty trucks, the Allison automatic gearbox. In this case, the LCT 2500 five-speed fitted the bill.
Several years ago, sales staff at the pointy end observed an increase in customer demand for exactly this kind of model, and realised there wasn’t a precise fit in their range. They were faced with two alternatives, use another very similar truck from the range and adapt where possible to suit the customer, or risk watching the customer get what they needed from a fierce competitor. Neither is an ideal solution.