Friendly and passionate was the first impression. We were drawn to Atsushi Uchiyama as he spoke with conviction on his immediate focus areas, strategies and plans.
Up Close & Personal with Atsushi Uchiyama
For this issue of Truck & Bus News, we got up close and personal with Atsushi Uchiyama, 38, the youngest new Managing Director in Hino Malaysia’s history.
Uchiyama joined Hino Motors Ltd, Japan in April 2000 and was responsible for the sales and marketing in African countries for 2 years, followed by 4½ years in the Middle East countries. He was then transferred to Hino Motor Sales Thailand as Sales Division Coordinator. Prior to his posting in Malaysia, he was based in Hino Motors Ltd, Japan and in charge of sales and marketing in Malaysia and LCMV (Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam), which provided him a better understanding of the Malaysian market.
He brings with him not only an enviable track record but also a wealth of sales and marketing experience gained from the various overseas postings and industry expertise as well as genuine enthusiasm and ambition to Hino Malaysia.
Friendly and passionate was the first impression. We were drawn to him as he spoke with conviction on his immediate focus areas, strategies and plans.
“My previous overseas postings broadened my perspective and cross-cultural skills. These are vital for the Malaysian market, which is multi-racial and multi-cultural. My immediate focus would be on three main areas – to introduce new best-fit products for Malaysia, provide best-fit total support for dealers and customers as well as upgrade Hino centres.”
New Best-Fit Products
“We see the need in ‘first and last mile travel’, meaning the first and last leg of a person’s travel within a city – be it after they come off a bus or after they park their car at LRT or MRT station, or simply do a quick trip to the corner shop or café. For people living in a city, they probably travel on the last mile on a daily basis. Hino minibus would be the best-fit product that caters not only to this need but could also be used as a hop-on, hop-off city-sightseeing tour vehicle. It is smaller in size and easier to manoeuvre through busy city and tight roads, especially suitable for Penang and Melaka, and we are currently in discussion with the government,” he said.
The new minibus, he revealed, would make its debut at the Malaysia Commercial Vehicle Expo (MCVE) 2019, which would be held from 20th to 22nd June at the Malaysia International Exhibition & Convention Centre (MIECC). “With a total length of 7m, the low-floor new Hino bus provides easy access for senior passengers and is wheel chair friendly. It has a capacity for 24 to 28 passengers and could run on B10 biodiesel. Hino is ranked number 1 in the Malaysian bus segment and with this new minibus, we are creating a new market as the minibus is a new segment for us. However, it would take time for the new minibus to be ready to hit the road as we have to put it on trial before mass production.”
Also in the pipeline is the introduction of energy efficient products such as hybrids or electric vehicles (EV). “The Malaysian government is promoting the use of EVs but looking at the current economic development, we could see that most sectors, especially the private sector, are more in favour of hybrid vehicles. I think hybrid vehicles would be the right fit at the moment for the Malaysian market; the investment is not so big compared to electric vehicles that require a charging infrastructure to be in place. Following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) involving our company, Mitsui & Co Ltd, Medini Iskandar Malaysia (MIM) and Handal Indah, Hino became the first company to introduce hybrid bus technology to Malaysia.”
Hino hybrid bus, he continued, could provide about 30 per cent fuel saving compared to the conventional diesel engine city bus. Furthermore, the hybrid technology reduces CO2 emission; hence it is environmental friendly.
Besides bus, Hino has a full range of commercial vehicles, covering Light Commercial Vehicles (LCV), Medium-heavy Commercial Vehicles (MHCV) to Heavy Commercial Vehicles (HCV), including Prime Movers. Thus, the company could cater to the different needs from diverse industries such as small business industry, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), logistics, courier services and tourism.
“Hino Malaysia gained 35.5 per cent of market share in 2018. We are pretty strong in both MHCV and HCV segments as we have been in the market for 42 years and the brand is well accepted by the local market. As for the LCV segment, Hino is a latecomer compared to the other major brands. We entered this segment only in 2003 but grew rapidly in recent years. Our sales volume was quite close to those of our main competitors,” he said proudly.
He also revealed that for the HCV segment, the company would launch the Hino 700 series with automatic transmission (AT). The new AT version is designed for ‘Perfect Fit’ in line with Hino’s concept of QDR (Quality, Durability and Reliability), which the company adheres to for all its product offerings.
“Our adherence of the QDR concept is demonstrated and proven by our involvement in the Dakar Rally. We are the only Japanese team racing in the trucks category,” he added.
Best-Fit Customer and Dealer Support
Another area that Uchimaya would like to focus on is on providing the best-fit support for dealers and customers. “Malaysia is an important market for Hino as it is the 3rd largest commercial vehicle market in the Asia Pacific after Thailand and Indonesia. We strive to become the most reliable partner for customers. The establishment of Hino Total Support Customer Center (HTSCC) in Sendayan showed our commitment in providing the best-fit support for the dealers and customers.”
The HTSCC, he pointed out, was the catalyst for customers and those in the region to improve in cost, range and quality of services in their business, and also the acknowledgement of road safety. It was the first Hino training centre that was built outside Japan, which reflected not only the importance of the Malaysian market to Hino, but he added, also Hino’s view on the potential of Malaysia in developing an incessant support to the commercial vehicle industry.
“Operating since 2015, HTSCC is constantly upgrading its programmes and increasing the list of training courses according to industry needs from last year’s 4 programmes to 7 this year. All these courses are opened to all drivers in Malaysia regardless of what brand they drive. This would help fleet owners address the issue of the lack of skilled drivers in the long run as well as enhance road safety.”
Upgrading Existing Hino Centres
Up to May 2019, Hino has 36 3S (sales, service and spare-parts) centres across the nation. Currently, Uchiyama is working on upgrading the authorised dealer network.
“We want to set a new standard to ensure that all our service centres are in tandem with Hino’s objective and direction in providing a new enhanced customer experience – not just offering reliable products but also providing quality service. We are also looking to restructure and reposition our authorised dealer network. Furthermore, with the growth of our business, we found that it is important to offer a full range of services under one roof to our customers; thus we urge our dealers to upgrade from 1S (sales) centre to at least 3S status. For the existing 3S centres, we are looking to upgrade them to 4S or 5S centres, which would provide body and paint as well as used vehicle sales,” he explained.
Uchiyama is positive about the future in commercial vehicle prospects and market potential in Malaysia. “Malaysia is a developing country; there is active construction of residential buildings in urban areas, which would trigger the demand for commercial vehicles. The emphasis of the government on promoting the public transportation system and visit Malaysia campaign would also boost the demand for city buses and coaches.”
另外，他们也会引进节能产品如混合动力或电动车辆。“马来西亚政府正在推广电动车辆，但从目前的经济发展来看，我们认为大部分的领域，特别是私人界，比较偏好混合动力车辆。我认为混合动力车辆目前最适合马来西亚市场，而且和电动车辆比较，投资没那么大，因为后者需要充电设施。随着我们与Mitsui & Co Ltd、Medini Iskandar Malaysia （MIM），以及Handah Indah的备忘录签署，日野成为第一家将混合动力巴士科技引进马来西亚的公司。”
“马来西亚日野的2018年市占额为35 .5% 。我们在中重型和重型商用车领域相当强，因为我们在本地市场已经有42年的历史了，日野品牌广为本地市场所接受。日野在轻型商用车领域，比起其它的品牌起步较迟。我们是在2003年才开始进入该市场，不过近年来我们的增长相当迅速。我们的销售量与主要竞争者的非常接近。”他自豪地表示。