Bothaville - There is a significant swing by South African truck operators towards cost-saving alternative transmissions instead of a manual gearbox.

So says Ernie Trautmann, Vice President of Hino SA, speaking at a media briefing at the recent 2017 Nampo agricultural show in Bothaville, Free State.

"Hino has the route of offering a fully automatic transmission instead of automated manual transmission (AMT)," he said, quoting results of comparative tests which have shown that a Hino 300-Series truck fitted with a six-speed fully automatic transmission is significantly more economical than a similar truck fitted with AMT. 

"We conducted an in-house test over three different routes and then had the results verified by an independent party using proper test equipment," said Trautmann. 

"Fuel costs can equate to between 40-60% of truck operating costs, depending on the type of operation, so we are delighted with the results of this fuel economy comparison.

"Hino is the only Japanese truck manufacturer offering a fully automatic transmission in the medium category and will extend this option to its 500-Series heavy trucks when a new model is introduced to South Africa in the last quarter of 2017. The new range will also provide us with a 6x4 model which we have not had before," added Trautmann.

Pre-production build of the new 500-Series truck is already under way at the Hino SA manufacturing facility in Prospecton. Technical teams from Hino factories in Japan and Thailand are assisting in the setting up of the assembly requirements for the new truck which has been in development for the past five years.

Shegeki Hagiwara, the Hino chief engineer for medium duty trucks, was in South Africa with senior members of his product development team to meet customers and dealers while overseeing the pre-production build of his new truck range.

"The launch of the new 500-Series Hino will be the first model introduction where we are able to offer our range of service and full maintenance plans as well as extended warranties which were developed last year in conjunction with Toyota Financial Services," added Trautmann.

"We are already getting increasing take up on these important after-sales offerings and our aim is to sell a service or maintenance plan to at least 10% of the buyers of the new model. Trucks covered by Hino service and maintenance plans also open up growing possibilities for increasing buy-backs which are attractive to many operators."

Hino, through its network of 65 dealers countrywide, has offers service and maintenance plans, a 2-year parts warranty and extended vehicle warranty. Toyota Financial Services is backing up the Hino SA team and is already financing more than 30% of sales. Developing a used truck franchise is another project currently in the mill with the Hino SA team.

"Offering servicing and repairs after normal business hours is a growing trend in the local truck market and many Hino dealers already offer after hours servicing on weekdays as well as on Saturdays, while some of them are already offering 24/7 servicing by appointment," said Trautmann.