Automotive manufacturer Hino introduced its trucks to Japanese roads back in 1917. Today, the motor vehicle manufacturer is one of the country’s leading diesel truck makers, and a top medium and heavy-duty vehicle brand around the world. So to say Hino has an impressive track record as a pioneer is putting it mildly.
That’s just as well, as Hino Motors Malaysia Managing Director Atsushi Uchiyama believes the industry is at its most important juncture in a century.
“The reason is CASE,” he says. “That’s Connected; Autonomous; Sharing; and Electrification,” Uchiyama explains. “These factors have brought about a wave of change that’s begun to erode the commercial vehicle market. In fact, bringing our business to the next level in the face of that is why I took on the role of Managing Director in 2019.”
At 40, Uchiyama is perhaps the youngest CEO among the Hino Group, and his age and experience give him a unique perspective. “I’ve been with Hino since I graduated from university, and for most of that time I was in charge of overseas sales and marketing,” he says.
“Many of the big industry players are purely focused on vehicle sales, so when I took this role I saw my first challenge as improving the after-sales service culture in Malaysia.”
In a move he hopes will reduce accidents and minimize customer costs over the life cycle of their purchase, Uchiyama committed Hino Malaysia to a ‘Total Support’ concept. “Total Support aims to foster and build trust with customers by committing to two values – ‘Uptime 100 Percent’ and ‘Minimize vehicle lifetime cost’,” he says.
“I believe you can’t provide product or profit without good people, so having a strong team is the most important element of achieving our business goals.”
Any visit to the Hino service center would become a one-stop solution, keeping costs to a minimum and vehicles on the road. “It makes perfect sense for the markets we cater to, specifically the truck and bus industries,” Uchiyama explains. “The longer they’re on the road, the greater their profitability.”
In this business, profitability is a door that swings both ways. Hino Malaysia’s own sales took a hit during the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Uchiyama says figures are starting to return to pre-pandemic levels. “At the moment we’re selling an average of 5,000–6,000 units annually, which is just about where we were before COVID-19.”
Those numbers are expected to rise, especially once Hino Malaysia enters the electric vehicle market. On top of that, the company already has the distinction of having achieved lifetime sales of 100,000 units across Malaysia by 2020. Now Uchiyama says his sights are squarely set on electric vehicles, and he has a solid team to back him up.
“Malaysia is a country of diversity and our team reflects that,” he says. “I believe you can’t provide product or profit without good people, so having a strong team is the most important element of achieving our business goals.”
An aspect of Hino Malaysia’s approach that sets the company apart is that it doesn’t have an in-house fleet of dealers. “We ask local partners to take on the Hino franchise,” Uchiyama says. “That way you have people who understand their market and are already established. We give our people everything they need because when they win, we win.”
The retention of talent is an issue in Malaysia, a country Uchiyama says has a culture of job hopping. “It can be challenging to retain good people, so we focus on building staff up through effective training,” he says.
“Customers appreciate high quality of service, and that’s when we become a true business partner for them. Hopefully that’s a relationship that will last for the life of the vehicle and beyond, which is why after-sales service is so important.”
“You have to be passionate about your work. I feel that these days it’s very easy for people to work purely for the money, but when you work with strong passion, when you’re making your customer smile with trust, that’s success.”
In the midst of a global economy wracked with uncertainty, Atsushi says teamwork is the most valuable asset a company can have. “When you’re working with colleagues to come up with the perfect solution for your customers, that’s the only way to succeed,” he says.
There’s one other ingredient for success Uchiyama believes no company should be without – and Hino Malaysia has it in spades. “You have to be passionate about your work,’ he says.
“I feel that these days it’s very easy for people to work purely for the money, but when you work with strong passion, when you’re making your customer smile with trust, that’s success. The money will come to you later.”