INTERVIEW: Hitachi Power Tools on acquisitions and this year's big rebrand

Since its acquisition 12 months ago, Hitachi Power Tools has revealed new branding, ambitious growth plans and new offices in Germany. Torque Magazine caught up with Simon Miller, Marketing Director for Hitachi Power Tools, on the company’s rebrand and its future development of innovative, professional power tools…

How’s business?

Business is good. Hitachi Power Tools continues to perform strongly particularly in our cordless range where our efficient brushless motors and powerful lithium‐ion batteries are providing great performance benefits for tradespeople. With the rebrand to HiKOKI planned for October 2018, there is no doubt next year is going to be busy for us!

What has been the reaction to the rebranding news so far? Does Hitachi Power Tools anticipate a big reaction when the rebranding rolls out across the power tools in October 2018? Will there be campaigns to support that consumer-facing change or will it be a soft roll out? And are you planning any key product launches to coincide with the rebranding? 

The reaction has been extremely positive. The rebrand marks the next step in our commitment to expand and become a market leader across the globe, following the acquisition earlier this year by KKR of our larger parent company, Hitachi Koki Co. Ltd. It will change its name to Koki Holdings Co. Ltd and Hitachi Power Tools will become HiKOKI (pronounced Hai‐koh‐key) from 1 October 2018.

Over the coming 12 months, we will be launching innovative new power tools as we invest in, and transition to, the new HiKOKI brand. From October 2018 we will be carrying out a full rebrand on all existing tools and following that, all tools launched will carry the new brand. Breaking away from the Hitachi brand will remove the limitations on what we can produce and we can now expand into any sector.

Don’t expect the new tools to just be green with a new badge on them. Although at first the product range will be consistent with the existing Hitachi offering (and we have some incredible tools already) we also have some exciting plans for new high‐end ranges of tools. We are going to innovate and improve end user working capacity and combine this with Japanese engineering skill, precision and reliability. Our game‐changing tools will be at the forefront of the industry and technology.

What does the rebranding and acquisition mean for your industry customers and distributors? Will there be changes in terms of support and service?

Of course, our customers are so important to us. The warranties of any existing power tools will not be affected. In the future we will even look to extend and improve our warranties in line with the advances we are making to our tools.

As a company, we will ensure we maintain 100% compatibility with existing Hitachi battery platforms. Not only will the battery platform continue, it will significantly expand with higher end capability.

As regards end user support, we keep parts indefinitely after a product is discontinued so existing owners don’t need to be concerned that there will be no support for their current tools.

Will the new subsidiary in Dusseldorf boost support in the UK or will that largely service the EU market?

The European market is very important to the company, so UK headquarters will be established in Dusseldorf, Germany to reflect this. The subsidiary will start operating in November 2017, to get closer to customers, listen to their needs and make quicker decisions to meet demand.

Since the acquisition and rebranding, Hitachi Power Tools has stated that it has ambitious global growth targets. Does the company anticipate growing market share in the UK as well as other territories?

Hitachi Power Tools are designed to be high‐end and we have some fantastic, innovative tools already on the market. Our owners, KKR, have an ambitious international growth strategy (we want to expand the business in the nearly 100 countries in Hitachi Koki’s global network). But to do this successfully we need to create a brand that delivers our key message – power tools that are top quality.

And acquisitions are to form part of the growth strategy? Are there any acquisitions in the offing?

KKR are an ambitious owner and I am sure they would not rule anything out which provides growth for their business.

What’s your take on the state of the power tools market right now?

It is healthy and growing, with new innovations pushing the market forward and I am sure HiKOKI will be part of that story.

For tool manufacturers and brands, do you see any key challenges in the sector right now?

There are challenges: manufacturers have to innovate to improve their products and those companies who do not produce game changing tools (such as our first fix nailer for instance) will struggle in such a competitive marketplace. It is an exciting time to work at Hitachi Power Tools as we move to grow our range and our market share.

How important is the independent merchant/stockist to Hitachi Power Tools?

They are extremely important to us and will continue to be a key focus as we move forward as HiKOKI.

In terms of the future direction of Hitachi Power Tools, the firm has hinted that it will introduce cordless technology to a wider range of power tool products and applications – can you elaborate on that?

The Hitachi brand has spent over 70 years delivering award-winning innovation in the power tool market and now is the time for us to focus on expansion and delivering truly game-changing tools. We have fully committed to accelerate growth and will pursue our goal to become a global leader in power tools. We are confident we can take our business to the next level, building a company that exceeds our customers expectations, and the revamping of the brand name is the first step to making this possible.

Further reading: Hitachi Koki to change brand name to HiKOKI in 2018 

This article originally appeared in the February 2018 edition of Torque Magazine. Free subscriptions are available here