-Explore to the Hino’s commercial vehicles and their technology
Hino Motors, along with Isuzu Motors, is one of the leading commercial vehicle manufacturers in Japan. And it now holds a large market share in the truck and bus sector in the world. This Hino has opened the Hino Auto Plaza (Kodaira City, Tokyo) in 1997 as a specialized museum for exhibition of trucks and buses. I visited there in August with having some concern. The museum tries to show the company’s business and technology development in the exhibition with looking back the Hino’s 100-year history which has producing various historic trucks and buses.
<Outline of Exhibition>
There the variety exhibits of Hino’s vehicles of Hino are available, like renowned memorial trucks, buses, and passenger cars, in the real figures of automobile and scale models, in which the company’s business development and foundation of technology are reflected. Especially the corridor’s exhibition in the main hall is outstanding. Particular interest is rare exhibit of Japan’s first truck “TGE-A” (1917), in addition to the domestically developed aircraft model, bonnet-type buses, passenger car Contessa, tricycle “Hustler”, and Dakar Rally winning vehicles. These are evidence how Hino was actively involved in producing various automobiles and developed their technology. In the special corner, even Hino’s aircraft engines in the early 1930s are displayed. It seemed to be a precious museum to know the development of the Japanese automobile industry, particularly in the field of commercial vehicles.
♣ The early days of Hino Motors seen in the exhibition
During this visit, I can noticed for the first time that Hino Motors had been initially engaging in the simple ignition device of the “Gas lamp” that had first appeared as a symbol of the civilization in the early Meiji period. The founder was Matsukata Goro, a fifth son of Matsukata Masayoshi, a famous politician in the Meiji period. who .The company had transformed later and set up “Tokyo Gas Electric Industry (TGE)” in 1910 as the first mechanical manufacturing company. While doing so, in 1918, the Japan’s military agency in Meiji offered the company to develop a military truck vehicle, named “TGE-A”, then Hino had utilized this opportunity and its automobile business started. At the company history room in the museum, this foundation story is clearly explained and the reproduction model of this TGE truck are proudly on display at the entrance hall. Meanwhile, the company TGE increased its production capacity in the military truck sector while continuously expanding its gas businesses and electric appliances. But, In the 1930s, the automobile division became independent from TGE, and later, it merged with other automobile companies in 1941 and named “Diesel Automobile Industry” during war time. So and so afterwar, the company name was changed to “Hino Heavy Industries” (1942), and it finally became the current “Hino Motor Industry” in 1946 after the World War II.
The whole period from the TGE to Hino Heavy Industries, Hino’s technology was said to be consistently led by a mechanical engineer “Isamu Hoshiko”, who was known as an excellent expert of automobile engineering at the time. His contribution to Hino was honorably displayed in the company history room. The development of vehicles, technologies, and businesses in the early times of year is depicted in the chronology charts at the corridor of main exhibition hall with various commentaries photos. What is unusual is that a numerous miniature car models provided by Tomica Co. are observable in the exhibition floor (called Tomika Town exhibition). It is really amazing and enjoyable to be able to see the whole Hino’s vehicles in full sets of models.
(Note: Describe “Hino” stands for the various former name of the companies, including Hino Motors ’, “ Tokyo Gas Electric Industry ”and“ Diesel Automobile Industry and others here)
♣ Shift from military vehicles to commercial cars as seen in the exhibition
Hino’s automobile production was predominantly centered in military use vehicles in the early period, but some involvement was shown in the non-military commercial sectors in this time too. Of these, it is said that the TGE-MP bus (known as the “Chiyoda Bus”) was manufactured in 1930. Some multi-purpose-trucks and trailer cars were also produced by Hino. However, it was not until the 1950s that Hino began to be involved in the full-scale production of commercial vehicle, especially initiatives in the trucks and buses for business purposes began this time. First, in 1946, Hino has produced T10 transport trucks using discarded scrap parts from war time vehicles. After that, the bonnet type of trucks, TH truck (1950) which modified former TE truck, and the several flocks of TE20 transport truck was consecutively put into market in the short time period. It can safely say that these manufacturing strategy and posture have really laid the Hino’s solid business foundation today. So, the successor vehicle E11 is displayed in the outdoor hall as a commemorative exhibit.
♣ Challenges to the airplane engines in the exhibition
Hino’s prewar automobile manufacturing was strongly associated with the support and order from the Japan Army. Military vehicles such as the previous TGE type truck, RGE high-rail tow truck, and armored tow truck had been the main production fields, but they were also deeply involved in the development of aircraft engines at the request of the military. A number of airplane engines, such as the first domestic aircraft engine “Kamikaze” in 1928, “Tenfu” (1930), “Hikari Three” (1936), and “Hatsukaze” (1942) had been developed in technological challenges. It is said that these were all actively used in the Pacific War as air fighter engines. The actual aircraft engines are on display at the Aero Engine corner in the building. There you can clearly observe the technical challenges of Hino at that time.
These real engines had never been opened in public because they were all confiscated by the Occupation Forces and the domestic development of aero engines were long prohibited after the War for certain of period. In this meaning these exhibits are quite precious ones. A scale model of the 1938’s aircraft “Kokenki” was exhibited too hanging from the ceiling of atrium gallery. This is also a quite interesting exhibit object.
♣ Legendary passenger cars of Hino that’s showing its new tech challenges
Hino has also entered the passenger car sector, especially the minicar sector after the War. In the meantime, the company has produced several renowned cars to the automobile world from 1950 to 1960s. Passenger cars produced during this time are proudly displayed in the exhibition hall. They are Hino Renault 4CV (1953), Condessa 900 (1961), 1300 Coupe (1965), etc. A lightweight tricycle “Hustler” which had exported to Southeast Asia in 1960s is also exhibited in the hall.
However, Hino has stopped production of own passenger cars since forming business alliance with Toyota in 1970s, and afterward the company became concentrating and specializing on production in the truck and bus sectors.
♣ Development of post-war truck business and bus business
Hino’s truck and bus business has expanded rapidly since the 1960s, and its technological advancement and production have significantly proceeded further. First, in the truck sector, starting with the TE type (1959) mentioned above, the KM300 type (1966), the KG300 type heavy truck (1967), the KL300 type medium truck (1969), the high cap HE type trailer (1971), FD172 rangers (1980) etc. were put on the market one after another. That time was precisely a period of high economic growth after the War in Japan, so it can rightly say that Hino’s transport vehicles have greatly contributed to the Japan’s economy through providing essential means to the logistic world. The high-power, high-efficiency, high-durability engines are particularly important for transport trucks. So, Hino has accomplished significant technological leverage in this aspect. In the hall, these series of engines developed by Hino are displayed in row order.
In addition, for demonstration of this technical capability, the actual vehicle of the “Japan Ranger” (1996) that won the Dakar Rally is on display outdoors too. It is worth to look these memorial objects.
<Expanding public bus business>
Hino made a big leap in the bus manufacturing field as well. First, the bonnet bus BH10 was produced in 1950. It is said that the bus was loved much by urban people as a small convenient public vehicle. This real bus is displayed in the hall along with the specified engine for it. After this bus, a number of public buses were developed earnestly in consideration of ride comfort and design, such as the floor engine monocoque BN bus, the skeleton-structured RS bus (1977), and the Hino sightseeing bus “Seleca” (1992), which was famous as a sightseeing bus. You can check these models at the minicar corner in the building.
♣ Recent Hino’s commercial vehicle and new engine initiatives and results
In recent years, Hino has been going to take new initiatives for producing special vehicles, trucks, buses, etc., applying its technological capabilities accumulated previously. In particular, during the 1990s and 2000s, the company seems to be burnishing its specialties in technology on the commercial vehicles while public concerns are growing in environment and safety issues more than before, in addition requirement to driving comport and designing improvement. Hino seems to look its goal to become a global first class manufacturer by improving its technological capacity more than before with seeking efficient and powerful engines, fancy body styles, and enough durability.
First, in this line, Hino launched the “Hybrid Bus HIMR” in 1994 and produced the efficient small truck “Hino Ditro” in 2003. The actual HIMR bus is displayed at the outdoor venue, and the actual hybrid N04C engine is displayed inside the exhibition hall. And it is interesting to see a platform of EV commercial environment friendly vehicle which is currently developing, and a model car of the electric car community bus “Poncho Mini” on display in the hall. You can detect there the future direction of Hino’s technical challenges in the exhibition.
Remarks after visit
In the exhibition, we can see the active features of Hino Motors that has consistently focused on its technology development on transport trucks, buses and other commercial vehicles, and finally gained current reputation as a global manufacturer in this field. However, I could have dearly notice that the company was just born as a tiny mechanic manufacturer in the early Meiji period, but it had gradually expanded its business by involving in various military vehicles, engines, aircraft production , while receiving strong government supports. It seemed to be a long process with courageous challenges to seek technology achievement. The accumulation of technology nurtured in this process was surely applied in the production of commercial vehicles like trucks and buses, where it is strongly required the heavy engine load, as well as long time ride comfort, driving safety. it would be an interesting issue how Hino will tackle the current social demand for development of electric cars and automatic driving technology in the midst the automobile technology trends are shifting from internal combustion to the other energy options. It was enjoyable and enlightened museum to see the automobile development world.
- 日野オートプラザ https://www.hino.co.jp/corp/autoplaza/
- 「日野自動車の１００年」（鈴木 孝）三樹書房
- ⽇野⾃動⾞ – Wikipedia
- 全国の⾃動⾞博物館 | トヨタ⾃動⾞のクルマ情報サイト
- ダカールラリー | 日野自動車 https://www.hino.co.jp › Dakar