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Is Hitachi a fading brand?

comments (24) January 27th, 2011 in Blogs
JFink Justin Fink, Senior Editor

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 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?


posted in: Blogs, Hitachi
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Comments (24)

oscar_mann oscar_mann writes: I own every cordless carpentry tool Hitachi makes and I can say there is only one lemon in the bunch..
I am not happy with the framing nailer.. It has more hang ups than my Paslodes and it has been relegated to the back up for the back up..
But I have fifteen 18v LION batteries, 3 chargers and about 20 tools to go with them and they have survived everything my guys and I can throw at them with flying colors.. They have fallen off roofs and ladders and bounced back every time, One of my guys ran a circular saw over a rattle gun and tore it up pretty good (Yea, I know.. WTF???)but it still runs every day.. I have worked the rattle guns so hard I had to put them in the freezer so we could hold them (really)to get the job done, drilled through anything my 1/2 inch corded drills will go through, use the recip saw for 90% of that kind of work..
This past weekend I was working on a water ski jump ramp and some numb nuts kicked a rattle gun and drill with batteries attached into the drink.. I just dried them out really quick like, recharged the batteries and went back to work.. (numb nuts, however, is still walking with a limp)
You have to realize that the circular saws are not corded and are not designed for long rips and wont push a high tooth count blade but if you stick with 24 teeth it will cut very well..
Boys, I have owned EVERY tool brand and havent found a brand that doenst have some issues with a tool or two.. I used to have a mixture of brands I sold all my 24v Bosch (had no complaints other than battery weight), 18v Makita (except collated screw gun) and 18v Dewalt (total crap)and now run cordless Hitachi exclusively..
I also have a 12 inch slider and other than the 50+lbs weight issue it is a dream to use.. I also have a lot of other corded Hitachis and no problems with any of them..
My ONLY real complaint is that the carry bags that the kits come in are too small.. They need to make one much larger with wheels..
Posted: 4:20 am on January 16th

JFink JFink writes: Thanks for the comments, Steve. I won't be removing Hitachi from the lineup anytime in the near future, I was just curious to see what people preferred. Thanks.
Posted: 2:29 pm on March 23rd

steve_tf steve_tf writes: Let me say further that if you stop reviewing Hitachi, or any specific brand, I will stop subscribing to your magazine.

I own multiple Hitachi, Makita, Milwaukee, Bosch, Dewalt, Delta, Porter-Cable tools.
Posted: 7:45 pm on March 13th

steve_tf steve_tf writes: Sorry, but the real world does not jive with your "test results." I have been using an NR90AF framing nailer for over a year and recently bought a second one dto replace my Bostich. My Hitachi C7BMR circ saw has been used through multiple sopping wet Vancouver winters without complaint. And my Hitachi impact driver is relentless, despite abuse in driving rain and falls from great heights onto bedrock and concrete. My Bosch and makita circ saws sit unused, and my Bosch impact driver is merely a nuisance.
Posted: 7:39 pm on March 13th

arcflash arcflash writes: And Porter Cable? Used to be a staple of the industry. Now they have apparently quite making industry grade tools and cater to Harry-the-handy-homeowner. Where is your article critisizing them? Hitachi is a fine brand, plain and simple.

I just need to take a deep breath and calm down. I've heard some silly things, but all in all you guys are doing a bang up job.

Posted: 12:01 pm on February 13th

JFink JFink writes: Arcflash,
Our reviews of a tool are not influenced by anything other than the tool. Period. We're not "out to get Hitachi", as you suggest. There has just been a noticeable trend, backed by 15 or so comments before yours, that seem to indicate a decline in the brand. I'm not saying "don't buy Hitachi tools!", I'm saying "What happened to Hitachi tools?"

If you knew how many advertisers we've lost because of negative reviews in the magazine, I think you'd feel otherwise about our credibility. Hopefully these companies value the feedback, because in the end, we're just being honest about what we're finding.

Nobody benefits from fluffy reviews that leave out the tough criticisms. Not the readers, and not the tool makers.
Posted: 9:10 am on February 9th

RichMast RichMast writes: Still like my hitachi 15 ga finish nailer the best. air blower built in is great.
Posted: 8:37 pm on February 7th

arcflash arcflash writes: This article confirms my belief that FHB is out to get Hitachi.

The first thing I noticed about the comments is "well I own four Hitachi tools, but......." , and some of the negative reviews about their tools are just downright wrong.

The cordless framing nailer mentioned above? I own one. Just like the Paslode it is great for smooth shank nails in green lumber but will bounce off of any wood that has been around for awhile. I remember leaning over a roof jack and tacking hip rafters together and thinking to myself what a great tool it was. Before that I had a Paslode, and was well aware of its limitations and advantages. Three inch ring shank nails through sheathing? Forget it, but my air nailer will choke on that. FHB lost alot of credibility with me on that one.

I owned one of their 14v impact drivers and used it on a daily basis as well. One of the best impact drivers I've had. I was sad when work got slow and I had to sell it. I have a Makita now, but that little impact gun was light as a feather and tough. I would buy another one in a heartbeat.

I own one of their 10' alien chop saws as well. I had to square up the fence, but that thing is dead to nuts every time. I've had it for two years now and even bought a slider to replace it but refuse to get rid of it. If I just have a few cuts or miters to make, it is my go-to saw.

I've also got their 18 gauge brad nailer. I don't use it alot, but when I do I know exactly what to expect from it. It is a good solid tool.

It is my experience that all major tool brands have been having serious quality control issues lately. Even your favorites. Why FHB has chosen to single out just one is beyond me.
Posted: 9:35 am on February 6th

HandMadeByRock HandMadeByRock writes: I have to agree. I've wanted to ask this question for some time - if Hitachi was on the skids. I bought a 12 inch compound miter saw and the folding fence didn't line up, the fence isn't straight causing the piece to move back routinely which can bind the blade,and we don't even bother with the laser light since it's off to the left a good 3/32s. I did buy a small Hitachi NI-CD impact driver a few months ago as another driver for a metal roofing job. It was on sale and isn't bad, but the battery runs down sooner than our Makitas. On a similar but different note, we installed a Bosch gas range recently, allowing brand name recognition to impact our choice, and what a piece of junk. The oven door trim on the right side fell off! The adhesive didn't stick well, and the metal trim piece fell off. The bakelite molding above the oven door broke off, and routinely the electric ignitor "hangs up" and doesn't stop clicking. After a few calls, we showed the customer how to pull off the burner switch and with a small screw driver, move the isolator gizmo a bit to break the circuit, but what a disappointment. The real problem is the distribution channel's decision to spend money on transport (from China) rather than on production labor craftsmanship (in the US) to bring quality products to the market. That's not to say it isn't possible. I'm old enough to remember when imports from Japan were junk, but when will China start making decent products, and doesn't the US importer play a role in specification and QC inspection?
Posted: 7:53 pm on February 3rd

pollock pollock writes: Ref - your article on Hitachi Tools . I just purchased the Hitachi 12 V combo kit , drill-driver, impact , flashlight for $139.00 at Lowes,approx
12days ago. Went to use it first time and the drill stopped 3 times when
trying to drill a hole for an anchor in a block wall . Could t get it to continue and had to get the Makita 18 V to finish the job. I will be returning it tomorrow. I believe your article is right on the button when it comes to the
Hitachi Tools, they used to be real good, but the quality has been going down over the last 5 to 10 years. Wish that article would have come out just a little earlier, I would have chosen some other line. Thanks
Posted: 6:36 pm on February 3rd

spzwd spzwd writes: Hate to say it, but Hitachi tools are not what they used to be. I have the older 10" chop saw that is nice and portable, been beat up but still works and is accurate. Looked at the newer version and it is cheap and flimsy. Also costs less, so I guess in this case you get what you pay for, but it's getting harder to find good quality at a reasonable price (not super cheap, and not Festool either)
Posted: 12:07 pm on February 2nd

OnSight_Construction OnSight_Construction writes: Hitachi knows that the fastest growing segment in the tool industry is the baby-boom DIY-er with more money than skills. He buys the tools, mostly, to impress his friends so Hitachi gives him the necessary bling to do so. Their target consumer never reads reviews in FHB. They go in the box store with their platinum card and pick the one that looks cool and makes them feel like a man. They are more than adequate for assembling a swing set for the grandkids or hanging the new flat screen. They are certainly better than anything the old-timer had when he was younger so he goes and tells all his buddies how nice they are and the cycle repeats.
Posted: 10:02 am on February 1st

gsaurman gsaurman writes: Its just not Hitachi's tools going down the drain. Its all the tools the quality is just not there. I still have my Hitachi framing guns, and skill saw from 15 years ago. I don;t have the reciprocating saw, mitre,2 new skiil saws, screw gun, and cordless tools, they are in the trash.
I also have thrown away my Bosch table saw, and two skill saws, and two jig saws.Stanley tools are junk and all made over seas. They are now with Bostich.
I have(HAD) a lot of dewalt tools. MY 12 compound saw is 12 years old and still running, My dewalt cordless tolls from 8 years ago are still running.
I have thrown out my 6 month old table saw(mexico), 3 week old 12 inch compound saw(made in mexico), cordless battery's only last 3 months( old usa ones can be rebuilt by a battery company like new) Dewalt tools are all made in china and mexico and are a huge let down

It is very sad I had a lot of good tools from great companies. Now a lot of them sold out to compete and we just get the junk and when they break bring them back to the store and send them back to the supplier.

So wake up and do the math

1999 dewalt compound saw 800 new 12 years is 66 bucks a year with no down time
2011 dewalt saw if your lucky 6 months at 600 or 1200 year with a lot of down time
skill saws used to last a year or two now they last 3 to 6 months twice as much
Drill bits last 6 times and there junk, bits don't last at all
Bostich tools don't even work out of the box.
So what is the answer? STOP buying China, mexico,asia and demand a good tool. I will pay more up front to have a tool last and in the long run it is cheaper and no down time.
I still have my 20 year old delta saw and it works great, wasn't cheap but it is a great tool
I took my saw in for repair the dewalt service guy admitted to try to buy up the old used tools because they are better.
I buy American as much as possible and Fes tools are my new favorite because they are the first to come out of the tool trailer and they last. In the long run they will pay for themselves.

Hopefully some American companies will stop trying to compete and make great tools again and we ( if we can find work) buy good tools that will last and we can all make money and it will stay in the USA.

Posted: 8:30 pm on January 31st

BGodfrey BGodfrey writes: After using Makita cordless drills (and one Ryobi) for 21 years, and hating NiCad batteries every day of those 21 years, I decided to invest in the lithium ion technology. I had been watching it and it seemed that they had finally become practical. So I trotted down to the hardware store, looked at the price tag, picked myself up off the floor and went home. I agonized over all the options until I finally said "screw it" and bought an 18V Hitachi set with a drill and an impact screwdriver. Wow! What an improvement. These tools can do what only corded tools could do before. If they were designed by some weird kid to look like a ridiculous green ray gun, so what? Pretty soon they were beat up enough for that not to be noticeable. I have been very happy with my decision but they do have one problem that seems to be shared by many brands: the forward/reverse buttons are very poorly positioned. I am forever bumping them and putting the thing into "neutral".
Posted: 4:30 pm on January 31st

AKAndrew AKAndrew writes: I think the main point is to test them and tell us what you find. Preconceived notions help no one.
That being said this is my experience-I have a very used 14v impact driver that is far better than me new PC model, the little grinder has held up to abuse of all sorts and is still going strong. 10"chop saw is good as any. Jig saw broke quickly.

Posted: 2:45 pm on January 31st

dirkfaegre dirkfaegre writes: I purchased their 8-1/2" sliding compound miter saw in 1988 and have been pleased beyond belief. Great little saw and still running perfectly. I also purchased a large (and very heavy) 1/2" corded drill shortly after the saw. It gets little use but I like it and it still runs just fine. But when Hitachi went to the gaudy flame graphics on their tools -- well, it was too much for me.

I say, do what you have to do to protect your readers. If a product line is failing ... then it is. It's your job to report it and now you have. Thanks. We owe you one for saving us the grief.
Posted: 2:03 pm on January 31st

gjlloyd1359 gjlloyd1359 writes: I own several Hitachi tools, a sliding 10" compound saw, a 12v screw gun and an impact gun. I hold these 3 tools in high regard. The guns are light weight and powerful and Hitachi has now extended a lifetime warranty for the tool and a two year warranty for the battery both lithium batteries. I've used the impact wrench to remove rims and I've used it to install a flitch plate with 12, 12" inch bolts and the tool performed flawlessly. The saw is still the best mitre saw I've ever owned. I don't really know why some people would consider it a fading brand.

Posted: 10:33 am on January 31st

locodecabasea locodecabasea writes: I'm so glad you wrote this article, I thought it was just my luck. I used to swear by the NR83AA framing gun, I have a 15"miter saw, 8 1/2 and 10 inch sliding compound saw and an old (from the early 90's) 16 ga. trim nailer that finaly broke. These tools cemented my confidence in the brand, however that was in the last century. Apparently in the new milenium they fired all there R & D people and Quality Control went out the window. Their tools look nice and they have the Hitachi name brand, but there a joke for the professional contractor. It started for me about 6 years ago, myself and a few other contractor friends bought 8" bench top table saws from Lowes, we would take turns returning this piece of junk until Lowes stoped carry it. OK any company can produce a lemon, more recently I purchaced trim nail guns 18ga and 16ga and their newer clipped head framing gun, and I can honestly say that I'm more disappointed in thier pnuematic tools then their electric ones. I never posted a comment before in my life but I feel so betrayed by this company that I had to let off some steam. When I saw your article I said to myself this is consumer justice at its best. By the way a friend of mine purchaced their 12" sliding miter saw and it looks hysterical and is not nearly as accurate as my 10" saw.
Posted: 10:19 am on January 31st

AyeDoonie AyeDoonie writes: Results based on appropriate, unbiased, professional testing are always welcome by manufacturers. In fact, they regularly pay for such services in addition to collecting opinions and reactions at trade shows etc. FHB should have no concerns about reporting its methodologies and the objective / subjective results. As the saying goes "if the shoe fits, wear it." The recent developments at Delta reveal that they were kidding themselves listening to their own marketing departments internal accalades.

My concern is the increasing tact that "reviewers" take doling our superlatives like they were Halloween candy. Every evaluation contains silly superlatives such as "Awesome" "Great" "Must-have" etc. And nary a hint of constructive critisism for fear of upsetting the advertiser.

Keep up the good work..
Posted: 10:12 am on January 31st

dw40 dw40 writes: My 10" comp/slider from 2001 has been great, and I've worked with cabinet guys that swore by their little 12v impact drivers, but that's about it. I was tempted when I heard they were offering lifetime guarantees on their rechargeable tools, but in the end, as a one-man show without a big trailer of tools, its the downtime, not the replacement costs that scare me, so I've stayed with Makita rechargeables, bosch jigsaws, porter cable and bosch routers, the usuals.
It seems silly, but I completely agree with DC, the manga-style redesign didn't inspire confidence.
Posted: 10:08 am on January 31st

EthanB EthanB writes: I'm relatively new to buying power tools. But I read, a lot. Blogs, industry publications, reviews, etc... Time and again the refrain goes something like this: "Hitachi used to make great tools, but these days the quality is lacking." The tools I keep on hearing about are their old miter saws, framing and roofing nailers. But on nearly all fronts I'm hearing that the newer models just don't measure up. This has led me to avoid purchasing any of their tools.
Posted: 8:02 am on January 31st

darylneukirch1952 darylneukirch1952 writes: I also have been using the 8 1/2" sliding miter saw, bought it in 92, it has been rebuilt once, best saw I have ever had. The repairman at the counter said it is the best tool still. The Hitachi framing saw I bought replaced the Makita saw my helper dropped from the rafters, not a good move,, fixed the Makita, still use it, the Hitachi is for Hardi board..I was contemplating buying a Hitachi combo kit, thank you for your reviews..
Posted: 7:37 am on January 31st

Dreamcatcher Dreamcatcher writes: Hitachi is such an amazing company. They make the largest machines in the world (mining shovels) as well as the smallest machines (microprocessors). Unfortunately they don't seem to put the same amount of effort in the design and manufacture of every product that bears their name.

In general, Hitachi is one of my "stay away from" power tool brands (just below DeWalt on my list). While I do admit to owning a Hitachi air compressor that I chose for it's high CFM rating and because it was made in Italy and a corded 3/8" drill that I bought in haste for a job - it was only $30. Both have hundreds of hours on them and are still going strong. Still, I wouldn't make a habit out of buying their tools. Their new stuff looks like cheaply made, poorly designed products covered up with hokey plastic flame graphics. They are lagging behind so much now, I assume they will eventually get sold off and swallowed up.

Posted: 7:24 am on January 31st

nickoury nickoury writes: I've been using Hitachi's 8-1/2" sliding miter saw since it first appeared on the market around 1988. It's truly a great saw and I swear by it for accuracy and performance. As for their other tools I can't say and since they redesigned this classic saw a few years ago, I probably won't be looking at their product line with much interest. The few 8-1/2" sliders and one 10" comp/slider I have of theirs will have to suffice. Thanks for the heads up.
Posted: 3:25 am on January 31st

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