CLAAS LAUNCHED its tractor range in the UK earlier this autumn, but its success is yet to be seen.
In Germany, however, the re-badged Renault models have been on sale for nearly a year and appear to be faring well.
In a year when farm machinery sales in Europe are generally down and tractor sales particularly depressed, Claas expects substantial increases in demand for its tractor line.
Unit sales should be up 20% by the end of 2004, according to the company.
“After the first full year of sales, the 1000-model mark had been reached in Germany,” says sales and service manager Lothar Kriszun.
“Overall market share for tractors over 51hp is set to top 6%, with nearly 14% for the all-important 141hp to 150hp sector.”
Last year, Renault had only 2% of the German tractor market. The country‘s market leaders were John Deere and Fendt, sharing about 42% of sales between them.
“With Renault we‘ve taken over a good team and we are standing by those involved.
“We‘re retaining all the old Renault dealerships in Germany and not forcing them to stock our other machinery lines,” added Mr Kriszun.
“But staying with the old sales system doesn‘t mean we‘re standing still with development.
“We‘ve quadrupled staffing levels in the tractor development department and already have new tractors planned for SIMA in Paris next year and for Agritechnica 2005.”
Tractor production is to remain at Renault‘s Le Mans site, with combine and forage harvester assembly concentrated at the company‘s headquarters in Harsewinkel, Mansterland, where a k55m renovation and expansion project has just been completed.
At the top of the five-model Claas tractor range is a new generation of the home-developed Xerion.
The company reports that 20 of the 8.8-litre CAT-engined systems tractors have already been sold, including three in the UK.
Meanwhile, bigger and better seems to be the motto at Claas‘ Nebraska Lexion combine factory, with a new 12-row maize header to be introduced this year for US-built combines, as well as the option of a new 12m (36ft) cereal cutterbar. n
Despite recently dropping the famous French name and orange livery, the future looks bright for the tractors in their homeland.
Claas management reckons that tractor sales in France will be up this year, adding around 0.5% to the 18% previously enjoyed in the 161,000-unit market.