More on Hybrids – this time Hino in Australia

According to the Japanese Nikkei newspaper, Hino is to launch its diesel-electric Dutro Hybrid truck in Australia this month. By taking advantage of brisk demand for environment-friendly vehicles outside Japan, the truck maker aims to triple its overseas truck sales to 150,000 by 2015, the business daily said.

The report suggests that one Australian operator has already decided to replace its truck fleet with the Dutro Hybrid. Hino aims to sell about 100 units in Australia in the first year, and plans to release the truck in Thailand, Indonesia and other Southeast Asian nations.Hino launched the Dutro Hybrid in Japan in November 2003, and, last year, sold around a 1000 units. Both Isuzu and Mitsubishi-Fuso followed suit with similar light duty, forward control hybrid models, and the Japanese are well in front in terms of hybrid development. It will be interesting to see if there’s any Scania interest in the product – Volvo now seems to be getting its head around the notion of a life after diesel, and a nice niche would be nice indeed for the apparently still independent Scania.

Ford Files Against Navistar

The news that Ford has filed suit against Navistar shouldn’t come as a surprise; the Warrenville, Illinois-based manufacturer has been a contender for our favourite basketcase OEM award for a time now. Aided in part by the fact that its previous accountants have had some difficulty adding up, its financials are a mess, and its strategy – whilst commendable from the perspective of an industry attempting to globalise – seems to have been leading it nowhere.

But the Ford suit is a problem. Navistar cannot afford to upset Dearborn, because it – rather like Iveco – is an engine manufacturer with a sideline in vehicles. And the relationship between the two is equally important to both. We estimate that Ford is Navistar’s biggest customer - it has been providing Ford with a six-litre diesel engine for several years, late last year began supplying the carmaker with a new 6.4-litre engine. These end up in the F-Series Super Duty, a product that represents more than 300,000 vehicles worth of annual volume to Ford. 70 percent of Super Duty trucks carry diesel engines. Moreover, both OEMs collaborate in the production of the LCF series – a medium duty forward control product that is becoming increasingly important as the Japanese OEMs begin to show their claws.But if Navistar needs the money, then Ford needs the market access. Following the sale of Sterling to Freightliner / DaimlerChrysler, it was barred from the heavy truck market until 2008. A strategic alliance with Navistar has allowed Ford to retain a foothold in the US truck market, and we note that a number of ex-Ford employees now occupy management positions with Navistar. Given that it has said that it would welcome an approach from a buyer, we had rather assumed that Ford – despite its own well-documented financial issues – would be in the running. If the Super Duty and LCF deals unravel, such a move would seem to be less likely, and Navistar could well end up facing down a less welcome suitor.