18 February 2000

French handlers could soon bear Bobcat name

By Andy Collings

TELESCOPIC handlers may soon bear the name Bobcat after the acquisition of French firm Sambron by US construction and industrial equipment giant Ingersoll-Rand.

Ingersoll-Rands Melroe division makes Bobcat skid-steer loaders at a plant in North Dakota.

Announcing the deal, the firm said the Sambron products would complement the Bobcat-branded light equipment line of wheeled and tracked loaders and mini excavators.

But the machines are unlikely to appear in Bobcat black and white at agricultural dealers, since AGCO has exclusive marketing rights for the farming sector through a 50:50 joint venture with Sambron.

Agritel is responsible for the design, development and manufacture of a range of hydrostatic drive, side-engined telehandlers, which Sambron sells to industrial, plant hire and construction users. AGCO has worldwide rights to sell the same machines in Massey Ferguson colours for farming and forestry applications.

AGCO has so far concentrated its efforts in Europe, where the UK and French markets for telescopic handlers are most developed. A sales slump in Britain has seen France become the biggest market, taking an estimated 2000 to 2500 units last year, compared with UK sales of about 1300 units.

AGCO is thought to have won about 5% of the French market in just two years, despite stiff competition from domestic producer Manitou and Britains JCB. The company aims to double that share over the next two years, in part to make up for the overall decline in tractor sales.

It is also developing plans to introduce the machines into markets beyond Europe where there is growing interest in using these specialist handlers on farms.

&#8226 John Deere returns to the telehandler market this year, after its abortive marketing partnership with Matbro.

Although Deere bought the design rights to the Matbro machines, the newcomers now undergoing final testing are understood to have been substantially re-engineered.

An assembly line is being prepared at Deeres Zweibrucken combine factory in Germany ready for commercial introduction of the new machines later this year.