The Sunday News
Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Business Reporter
TOYOTA Zimbabwe is working on expanding its business in the country in anticipation of a boom in the motor industry buoyed by the Government’s efforts to revive the country’s economy.
In an interview with Sunday News Business last Thursday on the sidelines of the start of the Hino Road Show 2019 in Bulawayo, Toyota-Hino Zimbabwe national sales and marketing manager Mr Carl Varga said the company was investing a lot towards spreading its network across the country as well as in infrastructural development and skills development as part of its business growth aimed at grabbing a substantial niche market locally.
“In general we are investing in the future, we do think there is a very good, bright future in Zimbabwe on both the Toyota and the Hino side and to be ready for the boom, which we think is coming that’s why we are investing . . . we are spending money on premises and training (personal) and we are pretty sure in generality we have a very good product and the market will come through,” he said.
Last year the company launched new premises, housing showrooms, parts distribution centres, workshops and administration offices in Harare and Bulawayo.
“We are looking to expand through the dealership network so that we can start looking at the other smaller towns around Zimbabwe, for now we have been concentrating on Harare and Bulawayo but we will start looking at expanding through our dealer network to cover the whole of Zimbabwe,” he said.
The Hino 50-day promotional road show, which is being staged under the banner “Cross Country Tour-2019-With Africa for Africa” began in Zimbabwe and will cover Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique.
It was initiated by Africa Mobility Solutions (AMS) as part of its efforts to grow brand recognition and awareness in Africa.
Hino is the largest truck and bus manufacturer in Japan. Mr Varga said the country’s motor industry was depressed owing to low economic activities by its enabling sectors notably the agriculture, mining and tourism industries.
“The motor industry depends largely on the economy. The motor industry doesn’t earn money for the country, it plays a support role, so the industries that make money for the country are your mining, tourism, agriculture, these are the ones that actually benefit the country on their own . . . at the moment it is a little bit suppressed because those key functions are having their own problems,” he said.
Mr Varga said the company’s truck market share rose despite depressed sales on the local market last year.
“We sold 30 units last year and we are looking to do more. We are looking to do 50 units this year and from there we will increase the product and of course that depends much on the economy because the economy needs to boom in order for us to sell. The actual market for new trucks shrunk and we went up that’s why our market share increased because we sold more trucks than we did the previous year,” he said.
Toyota Zimbabwe took over the Hino franchise seven years ago after the initial distributor proved to be inactive.
Last year, the company’s truck products comprised of the Hino 300 and 500 series.
It has recently got the green light to sell and service the latest Hino truck, the 700 series.
“We have only recently, in the last six months got a vote of confidence from Hino to sell the 700 series . . . we have been given permission because of our advanced efforts we have put into servicing and after sales . . . ,” said Mr Varga.
He said the introduction of the 700 series would enable the company to tap into the cargo cross border market.
“Up until now the units that we have sold are for use within Zimbabwe for distributing goods within Zimbabwe. Obviously there is a massive market for trans-border or cross-border, which we haven’t been able to tap into, without the 700 series. So we are hoping to get into that within the coming months,” said Mr Varga.
He said the company was anticipating improved sales of its other range of trucks due to its ability to withstand extreme conditions.
“We have got a lot of vehicles going into things like bakeries and we have cases of our trucks that have worked basically 18 to 19 hours a day. We also have cases in Harare where some of our 300 series have done 100 000 kilometres within nine months and the fact that they are able to operate under such extreme conditions without breakdowns has really gone a long way in getting the reputation of Hino up and running in Harare in particular and Bulawayo is also good for us . . . ,” said Mr Varga.
Toyota Zimbabwe and its dealer network jointly employ more than 700 people.
AMS regional after sales manager Mr Kevin Reddy said the new range of Hino trucks were highly automated and low on fuel consumption.
“We introduced the new range of trucks in Sub Saharan Africa so we have three models now. We did away with the old generation Hinos, now we have a new generation which is computerised. The idea for that is to reduce fuel consumption . . . ,” said Mr Varga.