Take Advantage of Expanded Business Scale to Advance Decarbonization Efforts

Major commercial vehicle makers Hino Motors, Ltd. and Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corp. have announced a business integration plan. Hino and Mitsubishi Fuso should take advantage of their expanded business scale after the tie-up to promote electrification and other decarbonization efforts.

According to the announcement, Toyota Motor Corp., Hino’s parent company, and Daimler Truck AG of Germany, Mitsubishi Fuso’s parent company, will jointly establish a new holding company and place Hino and Mitsubishi Fuso under its control. The brand names of both companies will be maintained.

Toyota and Daimler Truck will have the same ownership ratio in the new holding company, which will be listed on the stock exchange. Hino will no longer be a subsidiary of Toyota, and it will operate under the new group.

The aim is to complete the integration by the end of 2024. Toyota and Daimler Truck will also partner in the development of next-generation technologies, and there will be collaboration among the four companies.

The auto industry is in the middle of a once-in-a-century transformation due to decarbonization efforts and the spread of autonomous driving. The aim of bringing the technologies of the four companies together to increase competitiveness is understandable.

In particular, the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions from commercial vehicles is a serious challenge. In Japan, carbon dioxide emissions from cargo vehicles reportedly accounted for about 40% of the total emissions from the transportation sector in fiscal 2021.

However, commercial vehicles, which are larger than passenger cars and require more durability and power, face higher hurdles in shifting to electric vehicle (EV) technology. It is not easy for a single company to finance the massive amount of development costs required.

The companies must take advantage of their expanded business scale through the tie-up to enhance their ability to make investments and steadily promote the shift to EVs.

Some observers believe that fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) are more promising than EVs for commercial vehicles. Currently, large truck-sized EVs that travel long distances need to carry a large battery load, which makes the vehicles heavier. They also take a long time to recharge.

FCVs, which use hydrogen, can be refueled in a short time and travel long distances. If FCVs are used on fixed routes, the installation of hydrogen filling stations can be minimized.

Both Toyota and Daimler Truck have strengths in hydrogen technology, and they are expected to accelerate technological development toward the full-scale spread of FCVs.

Meanwhile, irregularities were discovered in Hino’s engine performance tests in March last year and subsequently, shipments of all Hino models were temporarily halted in Japan. The manufacturer’s consolidated financial results have been in the red for three consecutive years through the business year ending March 2023.

The latest realignment is likely due in part to the judgment that it would be difficult for Toyota alone to support Hino’s restructuring.

Toyota President Koji Sato said, “There are limits to what we can do to support Hino.” The inclusion of capital from other companies should increase caution among Hino executives and help root out wrongdoing.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 6, 2023)