Now marking 15 years as UD Trucks’ flagship heavy-duty vehicle, Quon continues to blaze a trail for people-centred smart logistics through regular technological advances and mindful improvements.


It‘s fair to say that 2004 was a vintage year for world-changing innovation. In February, previously unknown university sophomore Mark Zuckerberg launched the beta version of a new social networking site, at that point known as TheFacebook.com. Other advances with major implications, meanwhile, included the birth of Gmail, the unveiling in France of the Millau Viaduct – still the world’s tallest bridge – and a slew of successful space missions.

All these disruptions were of course hugely significant. But for those with an interest – vested or otherwise – in the transportation and logistics industry, the hottest debut of the year came not in Silicon Valley or in the gilded halls of Harvard, but at the Tokyo Motor Show.

Automotive history was made when UD Trucks first unveiled its Quon showpiece
heavy-duty truck at the show. Gasps of surprise and spontaneous rounds of applause from the crowd greeted the appearance of the vehicle. There was good reason for all this acclaim. Years of painstaking research and hard work had gone into development of a flagship heavy-duty truck that incorporated ground-breaking emission clearing technology, IT-enabled features and advanced driveability, comfort and safety.

One of the most revolutionary features of that original Quon was its SCR Urea system, a process of cleaning thin particles from exhaust gas – a genius idea drawn from the urea catalysts used to process emissions at thermal electric power plants. The solution has gone on to become a standard in the industry.

So, when it premiered as the world’s cleanest diesel truck at the time, Quon was rightly hailed as a remarkable achievement in keeping with the reputation of UD Trucks as benchmark for quality and willingness to go the extra mile.

Just as Facebook has honed its formula over the past 15 years – going from a relatively niche way of sharing events and information with “friends” to the globe-straddling tech behemoth it is today – so too has Quon (and, for that matter, UD Trucks) moved with the times.

UD Trucks has long shown its ability to develop its product based on the changing needs of customers. Indeed, a commitment to move with the times has been written into the brand DNA since its very early days when company founder Kenzo Adachi spent years honing and refining diesel technology for use in his vehicles.

Core values of the brand were instilled from the very beginning. Durability and dependability are key planks of truck design – and UD’s unstinting devotion to these fundamental “two Ds” has earned it an enviable reputation in all corners of the globe.

From the craggy peaks of Ethiopia to the highlands of Asia and the vast empty spaces of Australia, the brand’s various models – both legacy and Quon – are running round-the-clock shifts every day.
 


A sense of perpetual motion is far from confined to the punishing schedules kept by UD vehicles in fleets around the world. In recent years, UD Trucks has increased its efforts to support “Smart Logistics” – fusing its reputation for dependability with cutting-edge innovations that look boldly into the future. This centers around extensive research into ACE (automation, connectivity and electromobility).

And, in many ways the evolution of Quon since its launch 15 years ago can be seen as a barometer of how UD Trucks has applied its various breakthroughs in practice: turning ground-breaking new ideas into reality and rising to the fresh challenges of modern transportation.

In fact, the history of Quon is inexorably intertwined with UD Trucks’ own journey towards smart logistics that “put people first”, benefitting everyone from drivers and fleet managers to society as a whole.

With three significant upgrades since 2004, the story of Quon is rich in landmark moments. Smart components were integral from the word go. When Quon debuted in 2004, features such as a voice assist function and internet-based remote-checking announced an intention to transform the heavy-duty truck into a “smart” vehicle for the next generation.

An upgrade in 2010 was another leap forward. By this time UD Trucks was able to harness its own engineering and technological strengths to the technologies, resources and knowledge of the global Volvo Group, which the company had joined in 2007. This led to the introduction of fuel efficient GH11 and GH13 engines and the 2-pedal robotized-clutch ESCOT-Ⅴ gearbox, which offered improved safety and driving pleasure.

GH11E and ESCOT-V transmission

 
 
Another reboot – a 10th anniversary overhaul in 2014 – increased standards even higher. New features in this model included a Lane Departure System and an Advanced Emergency Braking System, with front radar sensors making Quon capable of braking by itself if a risk of collision were detected. The vehicle also benefitted from an improved ESCOT-Ⅴ with updated software and an ECO mode to maximize fuel efficiency.

The perfectionist engineers at UD Trucks maintained their record of delivering profound advances from model to model with New Quon, introduced to the market in 2017.
 
 
A revolutionary advance in a number of ways, New Quon was widely recognized as a statement of intent by UD Trucks in support of smart logistics. Technologies on board include a driver fatigue surveillance system to keep track of potentially catastrophic weariness.

The built-in Nenpi Coaching system works like an on-board driving coach, helping drivers by making suggestions on gearshift changes, acceleration or brake actions. Fuel consumption reports are automatically generated by the system and records are kept for convenient consultations. The sixth generation ESCOT-Ⅵ, meanwhile, offers even smoother gear changes and more assertive, well rounded gearshift management through enhanced software.
 
 
Other highlights include an ingenious Foretrack function which, when paired with ESCOT-Ⅵ transmission, memorizes every hill the truck tackles and helps drive the truck in the most fuel-efficient way. Additional innovations are almost too long to list, but include advanced disc brakes with superior heat dissipation, a reduction in vehicle weight, improved load handling and suspension, the fuel-efficient and clean GH11 Engine and a cabin that was completely redesigned to enhance driver comfort.  

Smart logistics though are not just about technological advances. Humans remain central to the UD Trucks, and New Quon, with its improved drivability, fuel-efficiency, safety, productivity and uptime, has been a boon to drivers and fleet managers alike.

Indeed, New Quon went a long way to addressing one of the most pressing challenges facing the logistics industry: a growing shortage of qualified drivers. With its various innovations making it much easier and appealing to pilot, the new vehicle helped open a career path to less experienced drivers and to candidates who had not previously considered pursuing such a role.

The road towards even smarter logistics though is one that extends into the distant future and one that is likely to see further twists and turns for Quon. In 2018, UD Trucks announced the launch of its Fujin & Raijin – Vision 2030 innovation roadmap that aims to deliver a variety of solutions for smart logistics, including fully-electric and autonomous trucks by 2030. 2018 also saw New Quon join the world’s first public road demonstration of multi-brand truck platooning with the aim of gathering data for maturing the Cooperative Adaptive Cruise Control (CACC) technology. In 2019 Quon Fujin Automation Demonstrator successfully demonstrated Level 4 autonomous driving technology over the span of three weeks at a sugar refining mill in Hokkaido.
 
 
Multi-brand truck platooning on the highways of Japan
 
“An unparalleled rate of transformation is sweeping through society,” comments Douglas Nakano, Senior Vice President of Technology at UD Trucks. “The many transformations of technologies will reshape the landscape of logistics.”

Quon has come an incredible distance over the past 15 years. But the willingness on the part of UD Trucks to anticipate the shifting needs of the global logistics industry mean that its flagship vehicle is sure to keep advancing.