Case IH plans to help tractor operators cut consumption by providing better on-screen information on engine performance, plus automated gear shifts to improve productivity. It also has CVT versions of the Magnum and larger Puma models in the pipeline.

“The next generation of AFS monitors will not only be video-capable so that we can provide ‘live’ advice to help operators get the best from their tractors, they will also show more information about engine performance and fuel consumption,” says Andrew Parsons of Case IH European operations.

“The details are still to be confirmed, but we intend showing power and torque curves, as well as a fuel consumption curve, so that operators can see where they will get optimum efficiency and productivity,” he adds.

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The data needed for such displays will also be used to operate an automatic shifting option that Case IH will introduce for the Puma and Magnum powershift transmissions.

The control unit will take into account factors such as ground speed and torque load to keep the engine operating at the optimum speed for the “power” or “fuel economy” settings selected by the operator. The new function will be available for field work as well as road transport.

“Operators are inclined to find a comfortable gear and stick with it,” notes Mr Parsons. “The auto powershift will change gear as often as necessary to keep the engine under load and maintain ground speed at lower revs for improved fuel efficiency.”

Case IH engineers have also been working on stepless transmissions for the Puma and Magnum as part of a programme of expansion for the range.

CVT drive will appear in the larger Puma models first with maximum power outputs from 215hp to 242hp, they will run alongside the existing 163hp to 216hp CVX tractors.

Randy Baker, global chief of Case agricultural operations, says a similar but heavier duty CVT transmission will follow in the Magnum, as well as a tracked version of the big tractor.

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“Now that we’re a separate operating group within CNH Global we have greater scope to develop our own products and serve our own customer base,” he says. “Our independence is already being reflected in growing market share, and retail sales in Europe that are above the industry trend.”

With demand for tractors and machinery high, Case IH has added capacity at all its plants and a second shift is being considered at the St Valentin headquarters plant in Austria. But he is cautious about investing too much in permanent capacity increases: “We’re experiencing the strongest demand for products that we’ve seen for 40 years, but we’ve seen these cycles before.

“We don’t see a major downturn in 2009, perhaps just some slowing in some sectors,” Mr Baker observed. “But maybe things will ease off in 2010 once the current round of machinery replacement is done.”