Hino, the largest truck and bus manufacturer in Japan, has just undertaken a successful 50-day promotional roadshow through four countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to increase brand awareness and to build a base for increasing sales in the region. The circular route of 6 500 km traversed Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique, with stopovers in Bulawayo, Harare, Lusaka, Ndola, Kitwe, Lilongwe, Blantyre, Tete and Maputo before returning to South Africa.
The initiative, which started in June from Isando in Johannesburg was driven by Africa Mobility Solutions (AMS), a subsidiary of the CFAO group based in Paris appointed by Hino Motors Limited as the official Hino distributor to 30 African countries.
"This pro-active roadshow has given a significant boost to our efforts to build the Hino brand and interact with customers, prospective customers and distributor staff in the region," explained André Venter, Vice-Divisional General Manager - Hino at AMS.
"Virtually all the Hino distributors' operations share premises with Toyota, the leading automotive brand in Africa, and we were able to stress the link between the two companies, which has valuable benefits for Hino in these countries because Toyota is a very familiar and trusted brand".
"We had 12 events in all - six in Zambia and two each in Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique - and interacted with hundreds of people, including major transport operators and senior government officials. More than 100 quotations were provided to interested parties, and some transactions have also been concluded, which bodes well for increasing sales and market share in the region. All events were attended by AMS personnel from South Africa, while in Zambia we also had representation from Hino Japan in attendance. All events were attended by media representatives and we received substantial coverage of these events".
"We hope that the fact that we exposed our guests to well-equipped parts and service facilities will encourage more operators to service at these outlets rather doing servicing and repair work at sub-standard facilities," added Venter.
Three HINO models were used - a Hino 814 manual transmission with drop-side body, a Hino 1627 Automatic with a tautliner body, and a Hino 700 truck-tractor with 410 hp engine and ZF AMT transmission pulling a tri-axle dropside trailer. The combination demonstrated how the same advanced technology offered in South Africa is now also available in other African countries.
All the trucks performed faultlessly. The only delay came when crossing the border from Zimbabwe to Zambia. The trucks were parked for three days at Chirundu due to border control clearance processes, despite extensive preparations being made by the clearing agent in advance.
The three trucks were each fitted with two tracking and fleet management systems - CarTrack and Questek - so the systems could be evaluated in these countries as more operators in Africa are requesting these systems be fitted to their trucks to manage their fleets effectively.
Questions from guests were mainly on pricing, specifications and body options, lead times and after sales support. Big corporate customers and cross-border operators welcomed the fact that Hino products are now offered with the same specifications that are available in South Africa. The fact that safety features such as ABS and airbags - and driver comfort are high priorities with Hino is also appreciated in African countries north of the Limpopo.
The AMS team stressed the value proposition of Hino in respect of the Total Cost of Ownership and Hino's reputation for quality, durability and reliability - QDR. A testimonial by a satisfied customer in Malawi provided additional credibility for Hino's claims about its products and services in the region.
"This trip has underlined the fact that doing business in Africa is not easy with customs and forex issues, as well as varying regulations governing vehicles - especially fuel grades and engine suitability - make trading cumbersome and expensive," said Venter.
"We also have to face tough competition with over 30 truck brands trading in Africa and a huge number of used vehicles - so-called "grey imports" - flooding the market. The market for new trucks is limited. We used this promotional activity to stress the professional manner in which Hino deals with its customers together with showcasing our outstanding after-sales support."
AMS has a dedicated team focussing on developing new markets while strengthening existing operations. AMS has implemented new vehicle sales and after-sales training programmes in these territories and it remains a priority going forward to enhance skills, knowledge and resources at the distributors and dealers to ensure top quality customer service.
AMS understands the need to support all vehicles sold through using best practices obtained from the Toyota business model, particularly in terms of parts availability and service capacity.
"Our main role is to develop new markets while strengthening existing operations in Africa, in such a way that the customer experience with HINO is exceptional. This is a challenging task but we also know that the Hino range is ideal for the operating conditions in Africa. By understanding the needs of customers and meeting these needs, we will be able to increase our penetration in Africa," continued the AMS senior executive.
"As far as we know this is the first promotional roadshow of this magnitude to have been undertaken by a truck manufacturer in the region and we are excited about the opportunity it provided for us to get closer to our distributors, dealers and their customers. There are no plans for another roadshow soon, but there are many projects on the go in terms of product offerings for East and West Africa and, conceivably, when these projects are finalised, we will consider a similar event in those regions of Africa," concluded André Venter.
Youtube video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=di_A7vUR2Pw&feature=youtu.be