We met Mr. Akifumi Fujii, the CEO of Toy-Factory, one of the fastest growing players in the Japan RV market who has it’s sites set for a cooperation with Toyota Group.
Words Antonio Mazzucchelli and Bartek Radzimski
Photo Antonio Mazzucchelli
Aboutcamp BtoB: When and how did you start working in the RV business?
Akifumi Fujii: My company was established in 1995, so actually it is one of the youngest in the JRVA. When we started there were a lot of competitors and we decided to create something different. We tried to bring the European taste and design into our vehicles, something that was innovative at that time. Instead of using Japanese flavor, thus being one in a crowd of many, we focused bringing inspirational designs through sourcing our materials and components from innovative suppliers in Europe. In Japan, there is a consumer segment between ages of 30 – 40 years old and many of these clients prefer models that are based on European design. This is the segment where Toy-Factory is concentrating on.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Where is your company located?
Akifumi Fujii: We are very close to Nagoya, which is coincidentally the hometown of Toyota. You can certainly feel the car culture in this area, so this is positive in a country where some parts of the population are abandoning motor vehicles. Over the last 10 years, our goal has been to specialize not only in the RV manufacture, but also to achieve level equal to a special vehicle body builder. We put a lot of efforts into increasing our internal engineering capacities and know-how, as well as the production quality. Thanks to these efforts, we have become accepted in this segment by the supplier base and other body builders in the Nagoya area. An additional benefit of our efforts is that we now receive orders from the Toyota Group for building up vehicles for i.e. several motor shows and other special projects. One that I am especially proud of is the request from Toyota to manufacture on-off vehicles which were gifted by Toyota to the King of Bhutan.
Aboutcamp BtoB: You have the new Toyota Gran Ace at your booth. Do you have a plan to create special RV on this vehicle?
Akifumi Fujii: Yes, we do. It will be the first RV based on Toyota Gran Ace and we believe the concept model will be accepted in the European market like Westfalia. The target market for this vehicle will not only be domestic, but also international, starting from Asian countries and Australia. We hope to get more involved with Toyota through this project to proceed to a next step. Due to this focus, we are really focused on the quality of our products. I strongly believe that since 80% of the production is done by hand, the skill level and working conditions of the workers determine the quality. Having said that, there is a possibility that unevenness of workers’ skills results in an undesired quality. Especially we believe that the electrical harnesses are at most risk. This is the reason why we decided to use an automotive style approach where the harness manufacture and other high-risk assemblies and parts of our products we outsource to specialized suppliers. Another thing we are challenging right now with the European company, CBE, is connecting all the accessories to one command panel which can control and diagnose all issues related to components on-board. The main target of this activity is to increase the efficiency and speed of diagnosing and repairing issues that may occur in the field.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Generally speaking, we see that there is not too much electronics integration and connectivity on board in the Japan RV’s. Can you tell us why?
Akifumi Fujii: Your observation is quite correct, however, please be sure that most manufacturers, including Toy-Factory are trying their best to incorporate these technologies. The main reason you don’t see more is the volume of vehicles produced by each manufacturer. When we approach suppliers of various components the typical minimum order lot is stated as “from 500 units,” which, in case of Toy-Factory, represents the total production volume of the company. We use about 43% of the total number of Hi-Ace vans sold to the Japanese RV Market. The remaining volume is used by quite a number of manufacturers, which shows that many of the other manufacturers simply don’t have the buying power in volumes to adapt the latest trends in electronics or connectivity.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Let’s talk about the future of the market. What are your forecasts?
Akifumi Fujii: According to the forecasts of the association and what I can see in the market, it’s basically growing, and it will continue to grow steadily. The end users base interested in RVing is increasing, so thanks to this positive trend, volumes will keep growing, however, without any sudden burst. In my view, to significantly increase the volumes, some manufacturers will need to go abroad, and the target countries will most likely to be Australia, Taiwan, and Thailand.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Is there any new product that you feel is needed in the Japanese market?
Akifumi Fujii: I believe that vehicles with a higher safety standard will be demanded in Japan. We have attempted to develop a 2.5 ton truck based camping car, however, due to the level of instability and a high risk of accident we decided to stop the development. In order to satisfy these criteria, I strongly believe we need vehicles equipped with AL-KO chassis such as Fiat Ducato or Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.
Aboutcamp BtoB: We also understand that you are a Director in JRVA. Can you tell us about your role?
Akifumi Fujii: Yes, I became the Technical Director in the current JRVA Management Team in 2019. My main challenge is focused on increasing the safety standards in the local RV Industry. One of my biggest fears is that due to some unforeseen accident which may occur with an end-user, the government may introduce regulations that prohibit or severely complicate the RV business. As the Japanese RV industry is still quite small, there are not many regulations from the government, yet with the industry growing we need to assure that the vehicles we produce are safe for the end-users who enjoy them.