50 years and 6 million units later, the Toyota Hiace still gets no respect

Not much of a birthday party. (c) Bertel Schmitt

Life isn’t fair. Tesla built a little over 80,000 units last year, end everybody is going gaga. Then there is a vehicle that is built more than 200,000 times each year, and it gets no respect. Tesla built some 250,000 cars since inception. That other vehicle was built more than 6 million times. In the last 48 hours, 10% of the 3,100 stories scanned by the DailyKanban Newsbot were about Tesla. None were about the Toyota Hiace. This morning, the Hiace celebrated its 50th birthday, and 12 hours later, even that festive occasion won’t rate a single headline. Meanwhile, the mediocre Tesla smartphone battery gets 845,000 hits on Google.

Spartan inside of the first generation Hiace, introduced 1967. (c) Bertel Schmitt

Life is even unfairer when one considers that if you truly want to change the world and make money doing it, you need to build something like the Hiace. Toyota’s workhorse van quietly delivers food to stores, children to school, if other cars have an accident, the Hiace takes the victims to the hospital. With eight comfortable seats (15 in a pinch) it is the backbone of transportation in many emerging markets.

The 2nd generation model was little more than a facelift, and lasted from 1977 through 1982. (c) Bertel Schmitt

The first Hiace was sold in 1967, and 50 years later, there are only 5 generations, some little more than a facelift. The Gen 5 Hiace was introduced in 2005, and 12 years later, there still is no sign of a successor model. If you can sell more than a million units per model generation, making money is a given.

The 3d generation Hiace lasted 7 years, from 1982 to 1989. (c) Bertel Schmitt

The Toyota Hiace sells to more than 150 markets, but it isn’t sold in the U.S., for the same reason its German counterpart, the Volkswagen Bus, has been withdrawn from the U.S.: crash testing. The cab forward design doesn’t provide much of a crumple zone.

The 4th generation had 15 years of life, 1989 through 2004. It could be ordered with fake wood trim. (c) Bertel Schmitt

This morning, the 50th birthday of the Hiace was – “celebrated” would be too big a word — at a low-key event at Toyota’s Megaweb in Tokyo. One each Hiace per generation, two speeches. Kevin Buckland of Bloomberg and I were the only foreign observers.

The 5th generation Hiace was introduced in 2005, and it is still going strong. (c) Bertel Schmitt

Meanwhile, a non-existent “Tesla truck” gets 23,6 million hits on Google.

No, life isn’t fair.

Inside of the Hiace, room for a small hospital. (c) Bertel Schmitt