With more than half the new combines sold in the UK market now being rotaries, any manufacturer without one in its range is at a bit of a disadvantage. So it’s probably no surprise to hear that Italian tractor and combine maker Same Deutz-Fahr is the latest company to join the rotary fold.
Back in May it signed an agreement with Argentinean combine maker Vassalli Fabril to use its existing rotary combine technology in its Deutz-Fahr combines. The two companies will also work jointly on developing the technology in the future.
Though Vassalli is a name few in the UK will have heard of, the company is the biggest farm machinery maker in Argentina. It has been making combines since the early 1950s and has sold 35,000 units across the continent since then.
It produces about 600 combines a year and has a range of straw-walker machines ranging from 180-330hp. The rotary machine was launched in the home market earlier this year.
Two Deutz-Fahr-badged versions of it will be sold initially, the 7535AFL and the 7545AFL. These will be made in the Argentinean factory at first, but SDF says it plans to gradually switch production to its Croatian factory.
The main difference between the two machines is in power output, with the 7535 sporting a 350hp 7.2-litre Deutz common-rail engine and the 7545 a bigger 12-litre 450hp version.
Both machines have a single 3.15m long and 0.75m wide hydrostatically driven (and reversible) rotor with a total separation area of 2.6sq m. Grain tank size is a pretty respectable 9000 litres and unloading speed a perky 90 litres/second. Standard header will probably be a 9.1m (30ft) unit.
SDF says a limited number of machines will be available for the 2009 UK harvest, but prices have yet to be announced
CVT Tractor range boost, too
As more and more farmers opt for the ease of use (and lack of clunky range changes) of continuously variable transmissions, tractor manufacturers are pepping up their CVT offerings.
Same Deutz-Fahr is no exception, with new CVT models at both the top and bottom ends of its range.
It sells two CVT models, the Agrotron TTV620 (previously badged as the TTV 1160) with a 169hp engine with power boost to 184hp and the smaller Agrotron TTV610 (previously badged as the TTV1145) with 165hp engine and no power boost.
But from April 2009 it will also have a bigger Agrotron TTV630 with a 24-valve common-rail 190hp engine (boosted to 224hp for pto and transport work) and an upgraded ZF transmission. This model will also have new load-sensing hydraulics and 160 litres/minute output to power up to six spool valves. A 50kph gearbox is also standard.
Deutz Fahr says more and more farmers are asking for CVT transmissions on smaller tractors, too, often for making front loader work easier. So next spring it will offer a new model, the 109hp Agrofarm TTV430, with a 4-cylinder 4038cc engine and a full CVT transmission that gives stepless speeds up to a 40kph top speed at a fuel-sipping 1800rpm.
For those who want a high hp tractor with a relatively simple transmission, Same-Deutz Fahr has also upgraded its Agrotron L720. This tractor has a 210hp engine, 27-speed semi-powershift and used to have a synchronised (but clutched) reverser. That has now been upgraded to a clutchless powershuttle.
SDF expands production
In the world of farm machinery making, it’s generally a good idea to be big (so you can reap economies of scale) or small (so you can specialise). Being medium-sized can be a vulnerable spot to occupy.
But Same Deutz-Fahr reckons that it’s found a pretty comfortable niche, with a 16.4% (and rising) share of the key western European market where 80% of its tractors and combines find a home.
For a start it’s still a private family company. The chairman, Vittorio Carozza, is married to the grand-daughter of Francesco Cassani, the man who founded the company in 1926. Their two sons Francesco and Aldo have key roles in the firm.
And being a private company (operating via a board of directors) means it has full control of what direction it wants to head in, without having to bend to the whims of capricious stock markets.
Last year it had a turnover of €1.1bn, up from 1.04bn in 2006. Profits were also up – €96m in 2007, compared with €40m in 2006.
Meanwhile its 2800 employees produced 32,000 tractors, 22,000 engines and 220 combines in 2007, most of them from factories at Treviglio, Italy, and Lauingen, Germany. Tractor numbers were slightly down on 2006 (but expected to be up in 2008) while combine production was up.
The Italian company can also point to a couple of really good decisions taken in the past few years. One was the purchase of German tractor and combine manufacturer Deutz Fahr in 1995, which brought high hp tractor technology and a reputation for making solid machines.
In fact more and more of the tractors produced by the group go out in Deutz-Fahr colours, while the Same and Lamborghini brands are mainly used for smaller tractors.
The other good decision was to buy a 30% share in engine maker Deutz Ag – a separate company from Deutz-Fahr tractors – in 2003 and then push that to a 45% share in 2008. Deutz Ag’s turnover in 2007 was €1.54bn, bigger than Same Deutz-Fahr’s.
Deutz Ag’s 4600 employees make diesel engines for every market apart from cars, specialising in powerplants up to 650hp for trucks, construction machinery, ag machinery and ships. In 2007 it made an astonishing 286,000 engines (up from 237,000 in 2006) and it has ambitions to push that figure up to 500,000.
This isn’t a case of size for size’s sake, says the company. With increasingly strict emissions regulations piling on the costs for engine makers, only the biggest makers will be able to afford the extra investment in the years to come.
Like many tractor makers, Same Deutz Fahr is also targeting the increasingly important 300,000-tractors-a-year Indian and 150,000-tractors-a-year Chinese markets. About half of all the tractors sold in the world in 2007 went to farmers in China and India (compared with 35% in the USA/Europe), though these are much smaller models.
Moreover, India and China’s share of the market is expected to rise to 60% in the next five years, while the US/Europe’s share will drop to 30%.
Same Deutz Fahr hasn’t been slow to get stuck into this juicy-but-tricky market. It now makes 50-70hp tractors at Ranipet, India, in 2006 and will soon start turning out 80-100hp tractors at Dalian, China.
Getting a share in these markets won’t necessarily be easy. Local competition is strong, with Mahindra already making 90,000 tractors a year in India and Foton making 70,000 a year in China. But, like New Holland and Deere, DF views its new factories as an important part of its long-term strategy.
SDF is also pushing hard at the Russian market. The market here is 25,000-30,000 a year and is expected to rise to 50,000 a year within five years, says the company.
Only 3000 imported tractors a year are sold here. But boosting that figure can be difficult because the Russian dealers lack the technological know-how to sell relatively sophisticated western-European and US tractors.
And what of the UK? According to Rob Edwards from SDF’s UK importer, the marque is enjoying rising sales and an improving dealer network.
Tractors sales are likely to total 750 in the UK in 2008 compared with 550 in 2007. While some of that is due to a surge across the whole of the tractor market, Mr Edwards also reckons it’s to do with better dealers. In the past three years 25% of the dealer network has been replaced, he says, and the 60 or so it now has in the UK and Eire have benefited from being bigger, better trained and generally more active.