Is Hitachi a fading brand?
Everytime we’re planning a tool review for the magazine, there is a meeting to discuss how the article will be handled. One question that is always raised: “how many tools are we testing, and which brands?”
The brands included will obviously depend on the category of tool being tested, but it’s a good bet that you will see the same names popping up in 75% of the reviews in our magazine. Bosch, Milwaukee, Ridgid, DeWalt, and Makita always seem to be included. Lately, though, Hitachi has me second-guessing things.
Let me explain…
On the one hand, Fine Homebuilding has an unwritten rule to avoid unnecessarily slamming a tool that we feel is a lemon. What does this mean? Well, it means that we won’t go out of our way to write a Tools & Materials column about a circular saw just to say that it’s a piece of junk, that is unless we feel that lots of our readers are likely to buy it and end up disappointed.
But in full-category tool reviews, those same rules don’t necessarily apply. Sometimes it’s a call we have to make during the research stage… “is the Craftsman circular saw meant to compete with these other high-dollar tools from Milwaukee and Makita?” Sometimes it’s a call we make after the testing is complete… “Geez, the Ryobi really didn’t come close to the average level of performance in this review, maybe we should leave it out.”
And that’s where I’m at with Hitachi lately. The tools just aren’t performing well in our reviews, and though there are obviously some exceptions, this trend seems to be creeping across all of their categories.
I decided to browse through the tool reviews we’ve done over the 5-10 years, just to see how Hitachi fared. Before you accuse me of cherrypicking the bad comments, I will admit that Hitachi fared well in several reviews. But it seems that when they failed, they failed pretty completely. Here are some excerpts:
- From Cordless Framing Nailers: “After these few positive points, this nailer goes downhill fast. It has the least power of all the guns tested […] misfired more often than all the other guns we tested combined.”
- From Testing 12-in. Sliding Compound Miter Saws: “Hitachi’s saw […]is huge, and I might even
call it garish. […] the stock blade cuts well, but there is more play in the slides than I would like (about 3⁄32 in.). Also, this was the only saw that arrived with fences out of square […] and there is no mention of how to adjust them in the manual.”
- From A Look Into Corldess Combo Kits: “The tools in Hitachi’s cordless combo kit look more ergonomic than they feel. The saw […] bogged down in our power test and displayed little endurance.”
- From 18v Li-ion Hammer drill/drivers: “This tool is a disappointment”, “The grip is too large to be comfortable, and its rubber coating […] quickly irritated my hand.”
- From Reciprocating Saw Showdown: “We found the saw bulky and awkward to handle.”
- From the upcoming review of 12v Li-Ion drill/drivers: “a fine little drill for many smaller tasks, but did not stand up to the competition”
So what do you think? Rumor has it that some of the quality issues stem from Japan dictating what the U.S. wants, whether it’s what we really want or not. But whatever the reason, the larger question remains: Is the once-respected Hitachi, maker of some of the most solid framing tools and miter saws in the history of the industry, going the way of cheaply-made throw-away tools?