FRENCH LOADER manufacturer Manitou this week produced its 200,000th machine at the company”s Ancenis factory, west of Nantes.

Speaking at the recent Manitou world convention, the management was keen to make the point that the company will remain free of outside intervention, regardless of manufacturing agreements with companies such as New Holland.

“Manitou is dedicated to maintaining a strong financial founding and remaining independent” says company president Marcel Claude Braud.

He highlighted this as one of four strategic areas which he envisages will take Manitou into a strong position for the future. Reinforcing customer satisfaction and seeking aggressive market penetration, are other areas for the company to concentrate on.

“Manitou has the ambition to carry on its development, working closely with the customer. We must also look to expand our market position in areas where we previously lacked dominance,” added Mr Braud.

Since production started at the Ancenis factory in 1958, Manitou has diversified into other materials handling markets. The current market breakdown shows three key sectors for the firm – agriculture, construction and industry.

Construction remains the key market and is expected to account for 45% of Manitou sales during 2004. But it is the agricultural sector which has been the key area of growth in recent years. In 1994, agriculture accounted for 15% of Manitou production, this has grown to 27% for 2004.

“We aim to be selling over 20,000 machines a year across the three market sectors by 2010,” says Mr Braud.

A task, which if achieved, will help Manitou realise its vision of reaching a production total of 300,000 machines within the same time frame.