Hino South Africa is taking a conservative view of the overall truck and bus market in 2015 and is forecasting about 2% growth on the 2014 figure of 31 544 units. However, despite this slow growth prediction for the overall market, Hino vice president Ernie Trautmann says the aim is to increase Hino’s sales volume and market share during the year.
Helping to achieve this will be the addition of a number of new derivatives during the year, including four in the Hino 300 sector where two more models with automatic transmission and two more crew cabs will be added.
As for the current low oil price being a catalyst to boosting sales, he says although it provides a welcome boost to the overall South African and global economies, he doubts whether it will result in significant new vehicle buying over the short term in South Africa. “We rather see hard-pressed transport operators using the savings in fuel costs to stabilise their businesses as nobody knows how sustainable the lower price is going to be in the volatile global economy.”
Trautmann says there are a number of important initiatives to be implemented in 2015 starting with a restructuring of Hino SA itself so as to better serve its dealers and their customers with accent being on shortening the lines of communication. This will tie in with Hino Total Support workshops for each dealership where detailed analyses will result in action plans to be implemented in the course of the year.
“After sales is a key to success in the truck market and with many trucks operating over long distances, it is essential to have excellent back-up service. This extends to roadside assistance which is quick to respond along with efficient parts supply and efficient servicing of vehicles by trained technicians,” says Trautmann adding that in conjunction with the dealers, Hino has put a lot of effort into improving parts availability for its workshops and retail customers.
A big drive this year will be to promote maintenance plans for Hino customers in partnership with Toyota Financial Services which is developing a range of affordable packages.
Another aspect of dealer operations being pursued in 2015 is to develop an effective Hino used truck programme as this is seen as a growth market for the brand and potentially an important contributor to dealership viability.
Looking back on 2014, Trautmann says he and his team are proud of the many high points during the past year but are particularly pleased that the company can be quicker out of the starting blocks this year after a slow sales build-up in 2014 due to some stock shortages. Sales in the second six months of 2014 were 33% higher than in the first six months.
The reason, he says, for the slow start in 2014 was the relocation of the local Hino assembly operations to a new facility in Prospecton over the 2013/14 shutdown period. Rainy weather added to the challenge of building the new facility to a tight schedule, but now the factory is functioning well and Trautmann says the target of exceeding 4 000 annual unit sales for the first time is in 2015 a very real prospect.
Last year total Hino sales of 3 844 units was close to breaking the 4 000 barrier and came during a year in which a new monthly sales record of 455 units was set in August – beating the previous best of 425 units attained only five months earlier – while the 356 units sold in December was the highest ever total for this traditionally slow-selling month.
As for Hino’s performance in the extra-heavy segment of the market with its Hino 700-Series, he says he is pleased with the progress being made into that segment where a 3% share was attained and several of the major transport operators were among the buyers of these models.
“This is an area of our operations where we will put even more focus and manpower this year,” he adds. “This includes an expansion of our Hino 700 Ambassadors programme with dedicated sales executives in the dealerships who interact regularly with the operators of fleets of extra-heavy trucks.”
A further, critical open point in the dealer network was filled with the appointment of a Hino dealer in Cradock, while Hino Isando started operations as the first Hino dealer in the Super Group and Hino Pretoria North relocated to Pretoria West and changed its name to Hino Tshwane. Another dealer to relocate to far better premises was Hino Germiston, which is now strategically well positioned close to the M2 motorway.
The current dealer network of 19 exclusive truck dealers and 45 dual dealers (passenger cars and commercials) is seen by Trautmann as the correct mix and footprint, so the programme for the future will focus on consolidation rather than further expansion.
“All in all, we are positive about the outlook for Hino SA in 2015 and have goals which we believe are attainable with the ultimate beneficiaries being our customers,” he concludes.