Ramez Hamdan, general manager, HINO, Al-Futtaim Automotive Group is looking back at 2019 with satisfaction as we turn into a new decade. Indeed, the past 12 months has seen the successful dealer and automotive brand partnership continue to re-write the light duty truck handbook in the UAE with the pair racing ahead of the competition in terms of growth. He tells T&FME that a swelling order book has helped his operation expand by more than a quarter in the relatively short time-span of a year.

“We saw 25% growth from 2018 to 2019,” he beams, adding that the figures were boosted by the winning of major tenders for waste management vehicles in Abu Dhabi with the West Coast Group company and in the Northern Emirates with sector-leader Bee’ah.

HINO falls under the commercial vehicles division of the Al-Futtaim Automotive Group and, as such, offers customers access to a well-established network of 3S facilities in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. The company’s growth has been steady over the years with it using the increased demand for commercial vehicles in the market to offer comprehensive tailor-made solutions to customers including genuine spare parts, service contracts, 24/7 service support and specialised technical support.

It has also been able to add financial, rental and insurance packages for fleets over time but the versatility of the HINO trucks is opening an exciting new area for the company to operate in. The brand’s presence in the F&B industry, for instance, has been increasing year-on-year because, Hamdan suggests, customers can trust in the quality of the trucks and the ‘HINO Total Support’ aftersales concept – which includes service contracts and guarantees spare parts availability –  that the manufacturer and Al-Futtaim wrap around them.

“HINO trucks product specification and durability gives us a clear dominance in the FMCG market, especially the dairy industry,” he continues. “This is primarily due to the continued trust customers place in our products and our unique aftersales service.”

Trucks carrying the Japanese marque include the heavy duty Hino 700 Series (with up to 100t GVW). The Hino 500 Series (with an operating capacity range from 10 to 28 ton GVW), meanwhile, offers a range of applications, such as tipper trucks, curtain siders, reefer trucks as well as general cargo (the Hino 500 Series maximises efficiency and significantly reduces consumption thanks to class-leading engine and transmission choices, says Hamdan.)

The last year, however, has arguably belonged to the Hino 300 Series: a range that offers payload capacities up to 6t and the three different engine power options of 140 and 156 hp. The incredibly flexible light trucks sold in the UAE are able to complete any role efficiently and safely, and, Hamdan tells T&FME, have become the vehicle of choice for the major fuel delivery firms in the Emirates.

He explains that more than 220 HINO 300 series 714 NWB tons and 916 SWB 6 tons trucks were handed over to fuel delivery operator customers in 2019, including CAFU, the Middle East’s first on-demand fuel delivery service app. It’s a relationship the places the trucks at the forefront of the digital revolution transforming the UAE market. While purchases by ENOC and ADNOC, further cement its leading position as the preferred light and medium trucks partner for businesses in the country.

All three firms have subsequently gone on to win major key tenders for major companies in the transportation and food and beverage sectors, such as Al Marai, National Food Company, Al Rawabi, Emirates Transport, Falcon Pack, Marmum Dairy, Masafi. With so many now performing a critical role in the infrastructure of fuel supply in the UAE, Hamdan is understandably proud to see the trucks proving their worth across the country. “We are very pleased to see HINO becoming the backbone of the booming fuel delivery sector,” he enthuses.

To build the trucks to specification, HINO teamed up with GORICA and CMC to carry out the customisation of the trucks for CAFU, ENOC and ADNOC respectively, “to ensure they fit the operational needs for each business and conform to the set safety standards in the UAE,” explains Hamdan.

To help fleets optimise the total cost of truck ownership and make a positive contribution to the bottom line, experts from Al-Futtaim’s Commercial Vehicle Division are providing eco-driving training to drivers of fuel delivery operators. Offered through the ‘HINO Total Support’ scheme, their training helps fleet owners improve fuel efficiency, minimise the cost of wear and tear, reduce service and maintenance costs as well as insurance premiums and decrease the risk of major road accidents, notes Hamdan.

According to Hamdan, HINO trucks are also cheaper on operational costs, have lower diesel consumption and require less maintenance and bigger service intervals.

He adds: “HINO trucks are known for their durability, versatility and the ‘Total Support’ aftersales concept in terms of service contracts and spare parts availability, makes them the trusted partner for companies – I thank our partners for their trust in our trucks and confirm our commitment to deliver our dedicated aftersales solutions.”

The success in the fuel delivery sector has been made possible by several years of hard work in establishing a sophisticated support network for fleet customers. According to Hamdan, Al-Futtaim’s HINO operation aspires to seamlessly integrate with operators in several ways to ensure all-important uptime is maintained. Like the fuel trucks it is offering, the company is able to help fleets out in the field when they need it the most.

“We can get our mobile service van to a customer site at any time, 24/7,” he says. “Effectively, we don’t disturb the customer operation, moreover, our service intervals are more than our competitors’ which gives the client an advantage where the truck is stopping fewer times for a service.”

With many customers opting for service and maintenance or repair and maintenance contracts, the company can also fall back on substantial aftersales infrastructure both within Al-Futtaim and from the Hino Middle East parts depot in Jebal Ali Free Zone. Located on the outskirts of Dubai, the facility ensures that parts availability is very high. “We often deliver three to four times a day to customers,” Hamdan explains.

Between 2015 and 2019, HINO trucks enjoyed a rise in market share from 8 percent to 33 percent, effectively doubling the size of the unit’s sales and employee numbers subsequently rose to 105. Entering 2020, Hamdan says that the company is determined to ensure that growth continues unabated: “We want to keep growing our sales and be closer to our customer through aftersales by minimising the downtime of the vehicle. We are therefore opening a 3S (sales, service and spare parts) facility in Sharjah, we are expanding our service mobile vans in addition to making sure our market share keeps growing.”

The Hino range has enabled Al-Futtaim to offer different solutions to a multitude of sectors in a market that is more interested in safety, reliability and productivity than ever before. Their rise to prominence has also been complemented by an evolution in the trucks themselves. A redesigned 500 Series offering a modernised exterior as well as a host of enhanced safety features and driver comfort improvements has been warmly received, for example. However, with our interview drawing to a close, Hamdan singles out the Hino 300 Series hybrid truck as a vehicle to look out for in a year where the world will arrive for Expo 2020 Dubai.

The event will celebrate advances in sustainability and mobility as the world confronts the challenge of climate change in the decades ahead.  The Hino 300 Series hybrid truck typifies the solutions that will be needed and the truck was the first to employ a Euro 4 and EVV compliant 4L diesel engine matched to an auxiliary electric motor that is emission-free amd significantly reduces emissions of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, particulate matter and nitrogen oxide.

A UAE leader in sustainable mobility, Al-Futtaim has already begun rolling it out to customers.

Hamdan concludes: “The Hino 300 Series Hybrid is a concrete evidence of our efforts to enhance air quality in the UAE and reduce our carbon footprint on the environment.”