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50 Years’ Travelled

6 March 2014

50 Years’ Travelled

In today’s business environment, 50 years is a significant milestone. It is pretty special then, that not only is Hino Distributors NZ Ltd celebrating half a century on New Zealand’s roads but 2014 also marks Keith Higgs’ contribution to the company over the same time period.

Keith’s legacy with the trucking industry started in 1963 with Clyde Engineering Ltd. He started with the earthmovers fresh out of school as an administration clerk. Quickly advancing to sales support and then representative had Keith travelling from Wellington to Hawkes Bay four nights a week. Keith says it took a while to establish himself; he was relatively young in comparison to most of his clients. Advice from boss Max Gregory, not to let the ‘old brigade’ intimidate him, boosted Keith’s confidence and his sales began to grow. Clyde’s first Hino’s were imported from Japan, assembled in Auckland, and sold to logging operators in Rotorua in 1964. And so Keith’s relationship with Hino began.

Keith has done it all, from his early days in the office and sales roles to branch manager roles in Lower Hutt, Hawke’s Bay and Auckland. In 1984 he became regional sales manager in Wellington, where he has remained ever since.

With fifty years experience comes fifty years of knowing New Zealand’s industry well. Keith says there have been many significant changes in the way business is done. From technology and regulations, to the volume of trucks and their specifications. Keith says he can remember when 120hp was deemed a big truck.

Hino has a strong focus on the environment, and has continuously led the way. They introduced a 300 series hybrid in 2006 and were the first manufacturer to comply with the next level of strict emission requirements. In today’s sales roles Keith says you have to be a mechanic, accountant, lawyer, educator, financial advisor and a people person. Being well versed in compliance and regulation guidelines, and knowing what is under the hood, under the chassis and inside the cab, all play key roles in any transaction.

“Selling a Hino owner a second truck is relatively easy,” says Keith. “They practically sell themselves.” Keith believes the reasons are two-fold. The customer’s first purchase will have proven Hino’s ability to get the job done, effectively and fuel-efficiently. The second reason is based upon client relationships. Hino NZ prides itself on really getting to know their customers’ businesses well. From contractors to councils - it is about ensuring the right truck, at the right price, for the right application. In many cases they also assist with body build, connecting clients with their suppliers to find specialised solutions. This holistic approach also takes in after sales services and a close working relationship with Truck Stops NZ Ltd.

“My entire career with Hino has been based on people first, product second, profit last,” says Keith. “It would be fair to say all Japanese brands make good trucks, but Hino has the best relationships.” While the sales side has been rewarding, Keith highlights the way Hino looks after their clients, recalling some great functions and trips to events such as All Black tests and visits to Hino Japan.

Keith is hanging up his Hino hat after 50 years of service with the trucks. On Friday 14 March he will be celebrating his last day by handing the keys of his last sale to Auto Despatch NZ Ltd. Retiring on 14 March brings mixed emotions. “I have worked with a great bunch of people and some fantastic clients,” says Keith. “I will miss the trucks too, but wherever there are wheels on the road, you’ll find a Hino so I’m sure I’ll be ok.”

Keith’s first adventure after retirement will see him as a passenger onboard a container ship, travelling to Europe via the Panama Canal, USA and England. On his return to New Zealand Keith says he hopes to still be involved in the transport industry in some way.

Hino is part of the Sime Darby Group. Their General Manager (NZ), John Keenan, presented Keith with his 50 years’ service certificate at a dinner in Palmerston North late last year. Keith will also be part of formal functions celebrating Hino’s 50 years later in 2014.


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