LAUNCHES HIGH – SALES LOW
There was no shortage of
new machinery launches in
1999 – despite being a
year which saw few
advances on the sales front.
Andy Moore reviews the
1999 WILL perhaps be best re-membered for its sales of large equipment – rather than its success in volume sales.
High horsepower tractors, wide cultivation equipment and high output forage machinery were the sectors which saw the greatest success – contrasting starkly with the lowly sales of the more usual "bread and butter" machinery.
But to begin at the beginning. Tractors sales in January started badly with a slump of 33% followed by a further 39% in February. The advent of the new T-plate registration saw sales recover when an increase of 40% on March 98 was recorded.
Sales held up for a few months dropping only slightly in April and May yet, by August, figures plummeted once more as purchasers anticipated the introduction of Septembers V-plate. In this month, sales soared by half again on the same period in 1998.
And the score so far?
According to the AEA, for the first nine months of 1999 total tractor sales over 40hp amounted to 9269 – 13.5% more than in 1998.
This year has seen a steady stream of new introductions – manufacturers recognising that despite the depressed world-wide market, there was a need to keep product up to modern specification.
Agco started the ball rolling with the introduction of the new MF 6200 and 8200 series which replaced the 6100 and 8100 ranges.
Kicking off at 85hp, the ranges include 11 versions, extending to 185hp, 210hp, 230hp and 260hp machines.
Tractors up to the 155hp mark are equipped with 4 and 6 cylinder Perkins 1000 series engines, while the larger models are fitted with 6-cylinder Valmet units to the top out the 8200 range.
A significant addition to the ranges is the inclusion of a Power Shift Plus transmission – developed by the joint venture Gima agreement between MF and Renault.
At the end of May, the industry heard the announcement of one of the biggest ever takeovers – New Holland to acquire Case to form one giant company with an expected turnover of $12bn a year.
Although the takeover will not be officially finalised until next month or later, New Holland states that it aims to continue individual brand names and retain their red and blue liveries. Time will tell on this score.
Annual cost savings after the takeover are estimated at up to £500m within three or four years, while European market shares are predicted at 25% and 40% for North America.
In the following month, when news of the takeover was still sinking in, John Deere added two new members to the 6010SE range – the 105hp 6510 and the turbocharged 115hp 6610.
Designed for general utility use or loader/pto work, both models are powered by 6-cyl engines, driving an optional 30kph 12 x 12 SynchroPlus or 16 x 16 PowrQuad powershift transmission.
The Royal Show marked the debut for Valmets 8350 which employs a 6-cyl 150hp engine, designed to operate at 28% lower rpm than standard units. Slotting midway into the Mega range, the advantages of the lower rpm units are claimed to be improved fuel economy, reduced engine wear and quieter operation.
From small arable tractors to American monsters, John Deere unveiled the 385hp 9300 and 425hp 9400 models which are claimed by the company to be the largest production tractors to grace UK soils.
Powered by 6-cyl 12.5 litre PowerTech engines, the two articulated models drive a 24-speed Powrsynchr transmission and are set for an official UK launch next spring.
On the tracklayers scene, Claas announced in October changes to the rear linkage and drawbar on the B-Series Challenger 35, 45 and 55 crawlers for UK conditions. Production of the Challenger 35, 45 and 55 models moved from New Hollands Winnipeg factory to Caterpillars DeKalb plant in Illinois – bringing assembly under the manufacturer Caterpillar.
Back in the UK, Valtra Valmet put its toe in the 160hp plus tractor market for the first time by unveiling four new models from 180hp to 280hp. Powered by 8.4lt Valmet engines, the tractors include a completely redesigned cab with improved ergonomics and visibility.
Also exploring new territory was Renault with the launch of a full powershift on the top-end Ares range, which includes three new models – the 725 RZ, 815 RZ and 825 RZ. Power is from John Deere Powertech turbocharged engines – producing 145hp for the 815 and 165hp for the 725 and 825 models. Equipped with Gima transmissions, the 725 tractor features a 32 x 32 powershift while the 800 series is equipped with an 18 x 8 version.
Price reductions and new model entries have been welcome news for growers who continue to question the justification in shelling out big bucks for these machines.
Massey Ferguson launched the MF7200 combine series, 10 years after the arrival of the former 30 and 40 series.
Topping the new Valmet powered seven-model range are three six straw walker models – the 265hp 7272, the 300hp 7274 and the 325hp 7276.
The remaining five straw walker models comprise the 165hp 7250, 180hp 7252, 200hp 7254 and the 230hp 7256. All machines effectively replace the MF30, 32, 34 and 36 combines.
Improvements to the range include a new lead-in plate and additional rub bar in the concave department to provide more aggressive threshing.
In September, Same Deutz Fahr announced price cuts for its combines for the 2000 season – 20% off the larger TopLiner models and up to 32% off smaller PowerLiner versions.
Intended as a move to increase the companys market share, it remains to be seen what effect these price changes will have on the actual amount of cash changing hands when a deal is closed.
Along with the price cuts, came SDFs new flagship TopLiner 8XL, which with 45t/hr outputs, is claimed by the firm to be the worlds largest conventional combine.
Key features contributing to the high outputs are a 408hp engine, a maximum 9m header and eight straw walkers.
Staying with green livery, John Deere decided to reduce the retail price of the CTS rotary combine by 13% and, at the same time, to give the machine a facelift.
Main changes include a more ergonomically designed cab – containing an armrest-integrated control lever and repositioned control panels.
On the innovations front, Claas developed the Laser Pilot auto-steering system which is designed to increase efficiency on Lexion combines by keeping the full header width filled with crop.
In addition to the auto-steering system, Claas also revamped the Lexion range for next season by including an easier shift gearbox on the 480 and 460 models.
Meanwhile, the 405 to 440 models were treated to a modified grain tank lid system while the larger 440 to 460 models were kitted out with an on-board air compressor. Last but not least in the combine fraternity was Case, which chose Agritechnica to air the CF80 – the first in a proposed three-model line-up. Powered by a 300hp engine, the machine comprises a four-drum system, which provides a total concave threshing area of 2.8sq m.
Enhanced throughput, says the company, is achieved by employing six straw-walkers, each having five steps to create a separation area over 10sq m.
Not much earth shattering news here – with most manufacturers and badged brands sitting tight in the market place.
At the Paris Sima show, Manitou took the opportunity to introduce the new Manireach range which includes the 629, 633, and 730 models.
With the emphasis on compactness, all models are 2.3m wide x 2.3m high and powered by Perkins 1000 series engines – available for each model in a choice horsepowers.
In terms of lift and height capacity, the 629 raises 2.9t to 6m, the 633, 3.3t to 6m and the 730, 3t to 7m.
Manitous drive configuration, for which it reportedly has a patent, calls for a cross-mounted engine, driving a 90deg bevel gearbox to redirect drive to the front and rear axles.
Later on in the same month, when Matbro was thought to be dead and buried, the company announced the existence of a service, support and parts service centre. With manufacturing rights long since in the John Deere fold, the service centre aims to maintain the Matbro after sales business.
Into the bale carting season, the powers that be finally agreed that telehandlers should be classed as agricultural tractors and as such, qualify for the concessionary rate of vehicle Excise Duty of £40/yr.
Other main changes in the telehandler market were seen at the European Dairy event, where Claas telehandlers received an upgrade.
Dubbed the Plus models, the line-up offers an improved linkage design on the boom end which enables carriage rotation to be increased from 143 to 165 deg.
At the Sprays and Sprayers event in June, increasing emphasis was placed on high capacity machines, and as ever, advanced spray systems.
Making an appearance at the event was Batemans 24m granular applicator mounted on a self-propelled unit. Designed as alternative to the usual 12m applicators, the Bateman unit is aimed primarily at the contractor market.
Granules pass into an air stream created by a hydraulically driven fan and conveyed to two distribution heads at the rear of the machine.
Chavtrac used the same event to announce the termination of the Chaviot 2000 self-propelled sprayer/ fertiliser following the need to up-grade the unit to current legislation.
Despite this, the company made up for lost ground by launching the flagship Spra Coupe 4440 self propelled model with 28m boom and 1560 litre tank.
Case continued to make a stand in the industry by adding the high clearance self propelled SP2500 and SP3000 models, while the SP2000 entered the low clearance range.
Back to trailed sprayers, Knight Farm Machinery brought out the EU range with tank capacities from 2500 to 3600 litres. The sprayers include a revised style of chassis, suspensions unit as standard and 4-series booms which are developed with John Deere.
Talking of John Deere, the year marked the first season for the company to try out its JD-badged Douven mounted and trailed sprayers.
Other changes to the sprayer market included an air suspension system fitted to Amazones UG Magna trailed sprayers, Rau AirPlus sprayers fitted with 90% lighter booms and a new in-cab computer for Tecnoma sprayers.
Hot off the press in February, was Simba Internationals decision to team up with Horsch Maschinen to market each others drills in their home markets.
Following the agreement, Simba/Horsch unleashed their DS 3 multipurpose drill, which is designed to not block up – even with very trashy conditions.
The remaining year saw the arrival of a host of European conventional and direct drills, from Gaspardo, Sukup, Bertini and Quivogne.
But where drill combinations are the key, Amazone launched its Airstar Xact – a 6m grain only drill which comprises an unusual hopper, mounted before a power harrow and the seed coulter arrangement.
Another interesting combination is Kvernelands 5m or 6m Startiller Rau twin rotor system which can be converted into two implements to cater for spring and autumn tillage operations.
For advocates of front mounted drill hoppers, this year saw the introduction of three significant models in the form of Rabes Turbodrill, Lelys Polymat and Kuhns Venta.
Changes to existing drills on the market include a disc option for KRMs Roger Rti and Optidrills and a 6.6m working width for the John Deere 740A mulch drill.
On the plough front, Kongskilde introduced the Overum-marketed CXL range, while Lemken and Gregoire Besson unveiled on-land/in-furrow models.
Lemkens plough took the form of a 12 and 14 furrow Vari-Titan semi-mounted version, while Gregoire Besson introduced the HPR7 range of mounted models.
With a wide range of self-propelled forage harvesters now established in the UK, manufacturers are jumping on the high capacity bandwagon producing mowers and rakes with matching appetites.
This year saw the first debut of Cases giant Mammoth 8790 self-propelled forage harvester, which the company claims, is the largest of its kind in the world.
Heading up the former Mengele produced range, the Mammoth is powered by a 540hp V-8 Mercedes engine which powers a new hydraulically driven feed roll system.
An important feature of the 8790 is claimed to be in-cab adjustment of grass to maize harvesting modes.
Although Mengele may have stopped producing self propelled machines, it continues to produce trailed machines for Reco in the form of the SH40. Reco claims the machines will be fully available for next season.
This years Grassland event produced a vast array of forage machinery with Lely demonstrating the Splendimo mower and mower conditioner range – a selection that includes 2.05m to 3.2m mounted models and a 3.2m trailed version.
Among other mowers at the event were Vicons CMP range, Deeres 324 and 328 models and Niemeyer s Semitra line-up.
On the rakes and tedders side, Krone brought out the four-rotor KS12.5 rake, which the company claims, is the largest available in the UK. Designed for 14ha/hr (35acre) outputs, the rake sports 13-arms on each rotor, each equipped with a suspension system.