Japanese truck brands have set the agenda in terms of what is and what is not included in the price and which level of sophistication, in terms of equipment, is included, but the new Hino 500 may start changing paradigms in this part of the market.
In the last 10 years we have seen an acceleration in the improvement sophistication offered onboard these workhorse Japanese Trucks. Before 2003 Japanese Trucks used mechanical diesel engines and relatively unsophisticated systems throughout the vehicle. All of them concentrated on durability and reliability in the truck.
The series of new exhaust emission regulations which were introduced in Australia over the following 10 years forced the hand of the Japanese into upgrading the levels of sophistication available in their trucks. Simultaneously, there was also an increased demand from fleets for better safety systems, as they looked to their duty of care and the chain of responsibility.
As a result ABS and, later some stability control became the norm in Japanese medium duty trucks. Simple things like cruise control started to appear and the comfort levels within the cabin was upgraded several times. Automatic and automated gearboxes started to appear in the models on offer. They had been unheard of 10 years before, apart from in very specific applications.
So now, with the paradigm shifting, we are moving from the simple basic truck to one which has an inbuilt navigation system, reversing camera, electronic engine, stability control etcetera etcetera, as standard. Each iteration of a particular model sees growth in the amount and sophistication of the equipment be offered in a truck.
One of the major issues around these kinds of changes in truck design is the fact that it costs a lot of money. The dollars needed in research and development to increase the sophistication within these trucks does put a limitation on their availability. To integrate a new system into an existing truck and test it to ensure compatibility, durability and long term reliability runs to millions of dollars on the annual budget.
In terms of development, large global players have a distinct advantage. The big boys can spread the cost of developing highly sophisticated systems across a number of brands and types of vehicle. For those you are not part of a global conglomerate, all of the cost have to be borne by a single company.
In global terms Freightliner, Fuso and Mercedes-Benz can leverage off development dollars being spent across all of their truck brands, plus Mercedes-Benz cars. Similarly, Volvo, Mack and UD trucks can develop technology across a wide range of trucks.
This is also the case for Hino who are owned by the massive Toyota empire. The availability of hybrid technology in Hino has come directly from the system developed by Toyota for the car market. Now, the suite of safety systems now on offer in these latest Hino trucks has come out of a Toyota-wide development program.
This gives Hino a distinct advantage over its greatest rival, Isuzu, which is a standalone independent Japanese truck manufacturer. Isuzu does sell across the world but it does not have the research and development funding, at a level which can be spread across a large number of models.