Following the 2022 dissolution of Hitachi’s joint venture agreement with Deere, ConExpo-Con/Agg 2023 marked Hitachi’s first independent appearance at the show and “the second foundation” for the company on its quest to develop the brand and grow market share in the Americas.
“The Americas market is the single most important market, or priority, for Hitachi Construction Machinery,” Chairman Sonny Ishii told the media during a March 13 press conference. “We are witnessing the startup of the Hitachi global brand in the Americas. We know that Hitachi is a global powerhouse, but we’ve lost that visibility in the Americas.”
Hitachi Construction Machinery Americas had a 33-year marketing and manufacturing agreement with Deere. The companies jointly produced excavators for North and South America at plants in North Carolina, Canada and Brazil.
In February 2022, the agreement was officially dissolved and Deere purchased the plants to produce its own brand of excavators. Hitachi and Deere have a new supply agreement for Deere excavators. Deere also announced a new agreement for compact excavators with Wacker Neuson.
In May 2022 at its Newnan, Georgia, headquarters, Hitachi rolled out its first set of independently produced excavators for North America, which were made in Japan and imported here.
Building “something special”
In the year since the split, Hitachi has rapidly expanded its distribution network and team of employees. At the same time, it saw sales grow 10 times, aided by machine allocation for the Americas and more than $120 million in parts inventory.
“Since March a year ago, we’ve hired over 150 people. We added winners in our distribution network. We would say that we attracted Class A or Tier 1 distribution to take us to the next level of being able to compete with the market leaders. And this is just the start. Our plans for 2023 are to double again the volume that we saw in 2022,” said Ishii.
While Hitachi supplied much of the excavator technology during the joint venture, Ishii says, the company had been buffered from direct feedback from customers and dealers over the last 20 years. “Our foundation and future is built on direct involvement with the customers and direct engagement with the dealers to be able to satisfy their needs,” said Ishii. “One area where HCM and Japan really showed their support for us was in the engineering on the product side.”
Hitachi’s chief engineer for construction products in Japan came to the U.S. to listen to customers and dealers directly, an action that “significantly improves our ability to get the changes implemented that we needed to continue to innovate on our product,” he says.
That feedback resulted in more than 3,000 engineers in Japan giving Hitachi’s excavators and wheel loaders a complete redesign. “On the products, we'll continue to listen, to innovate and to implement. We expect to continue to be the leader in giving the customers what they want on our excavators and loaders,” says Ishii. “The differentiation that you're going to see beyond the product is through all of the people – the people that are here for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity within the construction industry to really build something special.”
With the refreshed machines and growing team and dealer network, Hitachi aims to be a top-three manufacturer of construction machinery in North America by 2028.
“Looking to the future, I can honestly say I'm more excited about the future now than when I joined the company,” said Ishii, “I expected great things of the Hitachi brand and anticipation of when it would come together, but the customer reaction and then the dealer reaction and then the employee reactions ... it took this excitement to a whole other level.”