The dwindling number of machinery dealers around the country is a problem for both farmer and manufacturer.
Andrew Faulkner reports on two tractor makers with different approaches to machine distribution
RENAULT plans to have five manufacturer-owned tractor dealerships in the UK by the year 2000.
The French tractor company opened its first outlet near York on Mar 1, and the plan is to set up one UK distributor a year for the next four years.
Available in the UK for 17 years, Renault has seen its tractor sales grow from one or two units a year to a market share forecast of about 4% for 1995. But the step-up from also-ran to claim the number five spot in the UK chart, behind the big four – New Holland, Massey Ferguson, Case IH and John Deere – is seen as a big one. A step which needs more distributor coverage than the firms 80 existing dealers, which only cover about 30% of the UKs farming area.
According to Michel Detombes, managing director of Renault Agricultures UK subsidiary, it is a lack of dealer options in certain regions of the country which has prompted the firm to make this decision to set-up manufacturer-owned outlets.
"Lack of dealers is our biggest problem in the UK, because the major tractor companies have tied up all the principal outlets," he says.
"We are left with two options: To give more support to our existing dealers and help them grow; and to set up our own dealerships in areas where we are weak. Our intention is to expand with a combination of the two approaches."
Precise location of the planned distributors is not yet known, although it is likely they will be in current Renault weak spots – such as central southern England and parts of East Anglia.
The theory is to mirror Renaults distribution system in France, where it owns 22 dealerships (CRAs) accounting for about 50% of the firms total French tractor sales.
French CRAs tend to be located about 50 miles apart, with traditional privately-owned dealers filling in the gaps. Hence a French farmer should never be more than 15-20 miles from a Renault dealer. In the UK, the distances will differ but the plan is to follow the main distributor/privately-owned satellite dealer principle in certain areas.
Mike Clarke, Renault Agricult- ures UK sales and marketing manager, says the CRA-type system has advantages for both existing Renault dealers in the UK and farmers.
"Many of our dealers are smaller, family-owned firms which cannot always afford either the overhead cost of carrying slower moving parts and the more sophisticated electronic servicing equipment, or the capital to buy in lots of part-exchange tractors. Here our Renault-owned distributor can help, with the smaller firm acting more as a satellite dealer.
"The farmer benefits from more Renault dealers and continuity of supply. He now knows there will definitely be a dealer to service his tractor in years to come. This has not necessarily been the case in the past."
The UK is not the only country getting the Renault-owned distributor treatment. A CRA has recently opened in the Netherlands, and in addition to the UK outlets, further manufacturer-owned distributors are planned for parts of Germany.
• Renault says its 55-170hp tractor line-up will be revised over the next four years, and flagship horsepower boosted from 170hp to 250hp. High horsepower engine options will be assessed for suitability, with 100hp+ John Deere power units certain to figure in Renaults plans; Deere Power Systems 55-85hp engines are currently fitted to the French firms mid-range Ceres tractors. New transmissions are likely to come from GIMA, the development company owned 50% by Renault and 50% by Massey Ferguson.