21 May 1999

War threat to IMT spares supplies

Having your products

pictured day after day on TV

and the national press

should be good news, but

Martin Richards who imports

IMT tractors from

Yugoslavia, says the

publicity is a mixed blessing.

Mike Williams reports

IMT tractors are the principle forms of transport for many of the refugees fleeing from the Yugoslav army in Kosovo, and the red-painted Massey Ferguson lookalikes appear regularly in reports from the war zone.

The tractors are based on elderly MF designs and are built under licence in a factory near the Yugoslav capital of Belgrade. Although the Belgrade area is a frequent target for NATO bombs, the latest reports reaching Martin Richards, the UK importer of IMT tractors, say the factory has not been damaged but disruption caused by the bombing has almost halted the production lines.

Mr Martins company, IMT (Southern), is based at Kingston, Sturminster Newton, Dorset, and imports the cheap-and-cheerful IMT 539 tractor with a 37hp Perkins designed engine. It sells for £6950 including power steering and road lighting.

"The situation does not seem to have affected the demand for our tractors," he says. "We still have tractors in stock and we are still getting orders, but we are getting a lot of questions about parts availability and farmers are obviously concerned because of all the news from Yugoslavia."

But Mr Richards insists parts are not a problem. Because of their Massey Ferguson origins, most IMT parts are interchangeable with original MF and Perkins spares available in the UK. There is a discrepancy over engine nuts and bolts because metric threads in Yugoslav built engines are not the same as those used at the Perkins factory in Peterborough, but both types are available.

"We always relied mainly on parts from Massey Ferguson or companies such as Vapormatic and we have not let down any of our customers," he says. "Obviously we do not know what will happen in the future, but I do not think the Yugoslavs will be very keen to sell anything to NATO countries for at least a few years.

"Fortunately tractors based on Massey Ferguson designs are available from other countries, including Turkey and Brazil, and we are already looking at alternative suppliers in case we cant get any more IMT tractors." &#42