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Interview with Tim Hawkins, Director of Sales for Outdoor Power Equipment, Tanaka

After Hitachi Koki acquired the Nikko Tanaka Engineering brand in 2007, it took us a few years to figure out our direction. Tanaka had been based in Auburn, Wash. The decision was made to close that office and move it to Hitachi's U.S. headquarters in Norcross, Ga. In a sense, Tanaka as a company no longer exists; it is now a brand within the Hitachi Power Tools group.

"We are promoting the Tanaka brand through a group distributor organizations that consist of lawn and garden dealers. The Tanaka brand continues to be represented by the orange and gray color scheme that resonates with the professional, and is probably best known for its gas-powered drills."

"In addition, Hitachi Koki has launched a select line of outdoor power equipment to be marketed with the Hitachi brand and sold through the big box retailer network. The Hitachi brand of OPE is differentiated by the green and black color scheme that matches the Hitachi power tool line of products.

Aggressive Growth Plans

"With Tanaka under the Hitachi Power Tools group, there are significant resources and financing to really move both brands forward. Evidence of this will be the focus and dedication towards product development, which will become the benchmark of our success and growth. We have dedicated our engineers to the brands.

"One of the challenges we faced when we purchased Tanaka was that the company didn't have one clear avenue to market. The old Tanaka was focused on selling to distribution organizations and also on selling directly to dealers. We felt dealers needed some exclusivity within their territory.

Tim Hawkins of Tanaka
Tim Hawkins, Director of Sales for Outdoor Power Equipment

"We're only a year into our efforts to work with distributor organizations exclusively. We're happy where we are right now. We have a long way to go to become a major player in the industry. Our goal is to reach 3,000-4,000 dealers through our distributor organizations. In 5 years, we want to have a dominant brand, well-known within the professional lawn and landscape industry.

"The market has been challenging this past year. Dealers try to be as optimistic as possible, but this past season has been very tough. The Northern markets had a late start, while Southern markets were very dry. We're doing everything we can to support our dealers sales creatively to add value to our brand.

"We have implemented aggressive campaigns to help drive business to our dealers. One of the things we're doing is offering attractive end user mail-in rebates on many popular products that are 100% funded by Tanaka — the cost isn't shared by the dealer or their distributor organization.

Green Features

"An exciting product we're launching soon under the Hitachi brand initially is our 18V 3.0 Amp Hour Lithium Ion cordless professional grade string trimmer. Everyone is talking about being 'more green.' One way to do that is to cut down on engine emissions.

"Hitachi has the technology within its other products, and we feel we'll be a step ahead of our competitors when we launch the first product on this platform next year.

"Cordless products have been out there for quite some time, but more in the consumer category. We have a product that we believe is going to create excitement and allow us to move toward our market goals.

"Beyond this, we have another 12-15 products that we're looking to launch into the 2012 season."

Welcome to the New Tanaka

"Prospective dealers should note that the long standing Tanaka brand will drive profits and innovation for their customers. We understand the challenges that dealers face with our brands and are committed to delivering diversified, innovative and profitable solutions for both the dealers and their customers.

We have implemented an industry best warranty offer- 7-year consumer use, 2-year commercial use and 1-year rental use for both brands.