Hino Trucks has taken the wraps off its new conventional-cab vehicles and outlined its schedule to assemble the Class 4 through 7 models in Southern California.

It also announced plans to "reinvent" itself with an expanded and reorganized U.S. dealer network, plus new Web-based business operations and programs to help truck operators become more efficient.
The new vehicle line includes six straight trucks powered by the latest versions of its 5- and 8-liter Hino J-series diesels, plus American driveline components from Allison, Eaton, Dana, Meritor, Hendrickson and Accuride, among others.
Hino’s American and Japanese executives described their use of domestic components as going counter to other builders’ moves toward vertical integration. But outsiders will see more significance in Hino’s going to American assembly of American-style trucks.
The announcements and product introduction were made Oct. 21 at the California Speedway in Fontana -- a location that is among the interests of Roger Penske, the race car driver-turned-businessman. His Penske Corp. is one of the investors in Hino’s U.S. arm. Its official name is Hino Motors Sales, but it’s being called Hino Trucks by Derek Kaufman, its new head. Kaufman has worked for Roger Penske for the last 14 years.
Penske bought in at the request of Toyota HML of Japan, which now owns the controlling interest in Hino Motors Ltd., Kaufman said. Toyota’s management knows Penske because he owns Longo Toyota in suburban Los Angeles -- America’s largest Toyota car and light-truck dealership. Penske first evaluated six prototypes of the new medium-duty conventionals by running them in his leasing operation.
The new trucks’ primary attribute will be durability and reliability, Kaufman said. They also feature unique grille styling, steeply sloped hoods, tight turning circles, and big, roomy steel cabs that emphasize quietness, comfort and good visibility for drivers. The hood adds about three feet to the length of a comparable Hino low-cab-over-engine model. The LCOEs will be phased out in favor of the conventionals because sales figures prove they are what most American and Canadian buyers want. Hino executives do not plan to sell the conventionals outside North America.
The conventionals carry simple numerical designations that indicate gross vehicle weight ratings and engine displacement. For example, the lightest truck is the 145, rated at 14,000 pounds GVW with a 5-liter engine.
Other models are the 165, 185, 238, 268 and 338. The 5-liter (305.5-cubic-inch) diesel in the three smaller models is an inline Four rated at 175 horsepower with 347 pounds-feet of torque. Two of the larger trucks have an 8-liter (488.8-ci) inline Six rated at 220 hp/520 lbs-ft., while the biggest truck gets a 260-hp/585-lbs-ft. rating of the 8-liter Six.
The diesels are lightweight, compact and very clean-burning, said Hisanobu Fujita, Hino Motors' chief engineer and executive vice president. The engines are now virtually smokeless and odorless while running on current diesel fuel and without aftertreatment. They will be even cleaner with ultra-low-sulfur fuel mandated in the U.S. by late summer of ‘06. The J-series diesels have Denso high-pressure common-rail injection systems, cooled exhaust-gas recirculation and Garrett variable-nozzle turbochargers.
Eaton 5-speed synchromesh transmissions are used in the smaller trucks, with Aisen 4-speed automatics optional. Eaton 6-speed synchros are in the larger models and Allison 5-speed automatics are optional. Meritor axles of varying capacities are used on all models.
Hydraulic brakes are in five truck models while the Class 7 truck has full air brakes. Three to six wheelbases are available in each of the models. Ladder-type frames have C-channel rails set the American-standard 34 inches apart, and rail tops and sides are "clean" for easy mounting of bodies and chassis equipment.
Hino Motors in Japan will build the engines and ship them to California. Rolling chassis with most of the domestic driveline components will be assembled in a new plant in Ontario, then trucked to an existing Toyota plant in Long Beach for installation of the engines, cabs and nose. Cabs will come from Japan completely trimmed and wired, and special attention was given to making wiring and connectors secure and protected from water, Fujita and Kaufman said. The fiberglass noses are molded by a supplier in Indiana.
The first year’s truck production will be in Japan; it began in November and will continue into autumn of next year, when the California plants begin work. Sales of the new models will begin here in January.
Meanwhile, Hino dealers will work together in sales, service and warranty management so that "the spirit of the deal" is consistently honored by all dealers for any customer. They’ll also cooperate in areas like truck and parts inventories and purchasing of supplies. Until now, Hino dealers have operated somewhat autonomously, Kaufman said.
Most dealers are being grouped into 12 "CityPaks" representing regions where 80% of the American truck population works, he explained. The paks are called Los Angeles, Northern California, Northwest, Minneapolis, Chicago, Texas, Great Lakes, Atlanta, Florida, Mid-Atlantic, New York Metro and New England. Additional dealers are outside those areas.
Hino Trucks is concurrently launching several activities to support dealers and customers, Kaufman said. "Project Digital" will convert all business paperwork involving dealers and Hino Trucks’ headquarters to Internet communications. This will include truck and parts ordering, warranty management and service work.
Other national programs involve body repairs, graphics design and production, used truck auctions, quick-lube activities and contract maintenance programs. "Hino Watch" is a toll-free call-in center staffed 24-7-365 with technicians who can help Hino service people and customers with maintenance and repairs.
"Hino Lab" has people looking for ways for dealers to generate new revenue. The first is the offering of returnable cargo bins to reduce dock waiting time by truck operators. The idea came from observing operations at a FedEx air hub, where parcels arrive and depart in containers that are quickly taken off and put aboard aircraft, Kaufman said. Hino dealers will sell the plastic containers.
All the new activities will combine with Penske’s backing and the new conventional-cab models to make Hino a dominant player in the American midrange truck market, Kaufman asserted. He said Hino has been selling its medium-duty COEs in the U.S. since 1984, and while the trucks are highly regarded, Hino’s market share is only about 1%.
Japanese executives would eventually like to beef up the new conventionals to enter the Class 8 market, but that’s for the future.