Episode1(interview):Hitoshi Kono, President and CEO of Apio Co., Ltd. moves Jimny Pro Shop with conf

Kyosho’s MINI-Z 4x4 product is the remarkable Suzuki Jimny Sierra APIO JIMNY TS4. This model is a complete reproduction of the car kitted out by APIO (with special in-house parts included from Jimny's Pro Shop), to create a different look and feel to the MINI-Z 4x4 Jimny Sierra already released.

What type of business is APIO anyway? Why does the APIO spec JIMNY TS4 belong in the MINI-Z 4x4 range? To find the answers to these questions, we visited APIO to conduct the interview.

Apio has a shop in Ayase City, Kanagawa Prefecture with a range of unique and functional special parts on a fully fitted out Jimny. When you open the door of the shop, you are welcomed cheerfully by Apio’s Keita Takahashi, who not only knows everything about the MINI-Z 4x4 Apio Jimny TS4 but also about the MINI-Z series as well. However, we’ll explain that later, the starting point for this interview is Mr. Hitoshi Kono, the president of Apio.

Hitoshi Kono, President and CEO of Apio Co., Ltd.

In 2005, Mr. Kono became president of Apio. Before becoming the Apio we know today, it was a general car repair shop. However, Mr. Kono was not a mechanic and walked a different path as a product designer. He joined Apio as a product designer in 1993, but such was the company at that time, he was involved in almost every function of the business. Mr. Kono still designs many of Apio's special parts himself.

The Apio Jimny TS4 MINI-Z came into being from a visit by Mr. Kono and Mr. Takahashi to the Kyosho booth at the hobby show. At that time, the Kyosho product development team was debating whether to use the Jimny JB23 or JB74 for a new MINI-Z 4x4 model. With Mr. Kono’s advice that "The new JB74 is definitely better" and Apio design collaboration, the Kyosho MINI-Z Jimny Sierra was born in March 2020. A year and a half later, the Apio Jimny TS4 joins the MINI-Z 4x4 family.

“Even though the JB23 was popular, I recommended the new JB74 because I was certain it would be more successful. In fact, the popularity of the JB74 has really taken off,” said Mr. Kono.

Its absolutely outstanding. I designed the tactical bumper on the TS4 so it looked like steel even though it is made of resin. The subtle lines have been beautifully reproduced in this model. To be honest, this is very gratifying for a designer. Of course, other parts such as the rear bumper and wheels are exceptionally made. 

And the Yoshimura muffler is also perfect. Looking at it like this, I think my car is totally cool. (laughs)

Mr. Kono speaks honestly in his appraisal and not being polite. He also discussed his views of the full size Suzuki Jimny.

“I think Jimny embodies the spirit of the journey. A car is not just a tool for moving, and Jimny is not the only model. But if you drive a Jimny, you will understand how much fun it is to move around.

 In that sense, it's a car with a strong following and great for hobbies, meaning "hobbies give you a taste for taste". Jimny fits right into this style. This is also true for model cars as you can feel the romance of the car you admire right in front of you, even if it is not the actual car. The MINI-Z lets you control and drive. I hope that this MINI-Z 4x4 Apio Jimny TS4 will be something that people with various hobbies can enjoy.”

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