21 June 2002

MT plans still unclear

Agco has launched its

Challenger MT range of

rubber tracked crawlers –

and the Cereals event

provided visitors with first

sight of them. But

questions remain about the

companys marketing plans.

Andy Collings reports

SPECULATION about who will own the Challenger brand may be over, but just how buyer, Agco, intends to market the product remains unclear.

At a recent meeting to officially launch the new MT Crawler range, senior Agco management declined to be specific about the companys intentions.

For the UK, plans are apparently afoot to appoint a dealer in the east of the country. "To create a centre of excellence," says Jim Seaver, senior vice-president sales and marketing worldwide.

"The point is that this will not be your usual dealership arrangement. We shall have fewer dealers strategically placed to service the UK."

Whether or not this will include Claas dealers, who had handled the Challenger before its acquisition by Agco last March, is not clear.

Another important question to be resolved is just what Challenger products will be marketed in the UK. Agco insists that Challenger is now a brand name – not just a rubber tracked crawler – and includes wheeled tractors, combine harvesters and big square balers, all sourced from Agcos manufacturing portfolio.

"We intend to make a decision on this score with individual dealers," says Mr Seaver. "We shall have to assess their location and marketing circumstances."

In North America, the scene is rather more straightforward with there being a clear intention to provide the Caterpillar network with a full line-up of Challenger branded products, something Claas was clearly unable to do.

But while the UK and other European countries wait to discover distribution arrangements, the official launch of the MT700 Challenger range, which offers four models with rated power output from 235hp to 306hp, has been made. The larger MT800 range – 340hp to 500hp – will be available later this year.

Power for the MT700 range is supplied by a 6 cylinder, 8.8-litre Cat C-9 engine featuring an electronic management system with engine and transmission linked by the companys Intellitronics system. At this point, it is worth noting that 60% of the MTs build are Caterpillar components.

Transmission comprises a Cat-sourced 16×4 speed box, electro-hydraulically controlled with a top speed of 40kph. As with most modern transmissions the MTs are equipped with a range of shifting options and automatic controls designed to ease the lot of the operator and improve overall efficiency. These include clutchless shuttle shifting, pre-select shifting and speed matching, the latter requiring the transmission to shift to a gear which most closely matches ground speed.

On the ground, a redesigned track undercarriage with its three suspended idlers and front axle pivots is claimed to provide better ground contact and more comfortable ride for the operator.

Track widths from 14in to 30in wide can be specified and there is a facility for extending or reducing the distance between the tracks to accommodate different tramline requirements.

Rear hydraulic linkage having a lift capacity of 11t is standard and there is an option for the hitch to be steerable to compensate for sloping ground conditions.

Up in the cab, the operator is treated to a spacious, comfortable environment with controls readily to hand. The main ones – transmission, hydraulics, pto and linkage – are grouped on the right-hand armrest.

A feature operators will find of particular use is a "one touch" management system which enables headland turns with, say, a plough to be completely automated in terms of engine speed, gear selection and hydraulic sequencing.

Few could deny that the new MT ranges offer big growers and contractors a sophisticated workhorse with power, speed and comfort. When Agco completes its distribution arrangements they should be strong contenders for a niche, but important market. &#42

Above: Now in Agcos hands, the rubber-tracked 290hp Challenger MT755 makes its first official appearance. Below: The Challenger name is not just a rubber-tracked machine it is also a brand name. Sporting a distinct similarity to the MF 8200 Series in all but colour, just where this 185hp Challenger wheeled tractor will be marketed remains unclear.


Model Engine Price (£) power (DIN)

MT735 235hp 128,560

MT745 255hp 135,355

MT755 290hp 141,548

MT765 306hp 149,277