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Fuso comes out swinging
Truck maker rebounds from Japan earthquake
The March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan was the country’s greatest disaster since the end of World War II. But on a cold rainy day in the mountains north of Tokyo, one could be forgiven for doubting an earthquake ever struck the island nation.
Mitsubishi Fuso’s Kitsuregawa Proving Grounds – about 60 miles from the stricken nuclear reactors at Fukushima – were damaged heavily in the quake. But so relentless and complete have been Fuso’s and Japan’s efforts to rebuild and repair that evidence of the disaster is scant. At the company’s main vehicle manufacturing plant in Kawasaki, production has been ramped up to meet increased demand – especially for the company’s new Canter vocational truck with a new double-clutch Duonic automatic transmission that company officials hail as “revolutionary.”
I recently was on hand in Japan to see firsthand how robust Fuso’s recovery has been and to learn more about the company’s increasingly important role in Daimler Trucks’ global research and development efforts. Over the past several years, Daimler has acquired a 48 percent share of Mitsubishi Fuso stock. And while the initial impetus for Daimler was to gain greater access to the lucrative Asian truck market, the relationship between Daimler Trucks and Mitsubishi Fuso steadily has flourished and matured.
Dr. Andreas Renschler, Daimler chief executive officer and board member, drove this point home at a roundtable discussion in Tokyo when he noted that moving forward, Mitsubishi Fuso will serve as Daimler’s worldwide research and development center for alternative fuel and advanced powertrain technologies. In other words, anyone wondering where Daimler stands on natural gas engines, hybrid-drive transmissions or all-electric delivery vehicles should keep a close eye on the vehicles Mitsubishi Fuso is researching and producing today.
Mitsubishi Fuso serves as Daimler Trucks’ catalyst for alt-fuel and advanced powertrains.
“Fuso is already the fuel efficiency leader in the Japanese commercial vehicle industry,” says Dr. Albert Kirchmann, president and CEO of Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus. “We plan to further enhance our leading fuel efficiency position in conventionally powered diesel vehicles while pushing forward with advanced technologies like hybrid-electric and all-electric vehicles.”
Kirchmann said the technologies on display by Fuso at the Tokyo Motor Show were in line with “Fuso 2015.” One of the company’s five pillars is to be a leader in green innovation, meaning it will focus on advances in green products, green factory and infrastructure and green supply chain to achieve an aggregate reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of 7.5 percent by 2015.
Under the theme “Power to the Future,” Fuso presented four vehicles, including the new Canter Eco Hybrid light-duty truck, the Canter E-Cell electric truck, the first public exhibition of the Super Great Eco Hybrid heavy-duty truck and a display of the Aero Queen bus with advanced diesel technology. In addition, the company showcased its new light-duty truck hybrid system and advanced selective catalytic reduction exhaust gas aftertreatment system.
All of which brings us to the new Canter with its dual-clutch Duonic transmission. Unlike the four models unveiled in Tokyo, this medium-duty truck is available in North America today. I was lucky enough to score an extended test drive on the eve of my visit to Japan and see for myself how Fuso’s new technology is shaping the company’s products and will shape Daimler’s products in the future.
The new Canter’s dual-clutch transmission provides the feeling of driving a much more powerful vehicle thanks to its timely intuitive shifting – even though a fuel-sipping four-cylinder diesel engine is under the seat. The new Canter is strong evidence that Mitsubishi Fuso is set to launch a wide range of innovative new products that will have a dramatic impact on Daimler vehicles worldwide.
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