Sisu set to size up UKoperation
SISU, the Finnish manufacturer of Valmet tractors, has ambitious plans for the UK.
As a result of its merger with fellow Finnish firm Partek (Machinery, Jan 31), there will be more money to spend on marketing, more money for research and development, and more money for new projects, according to Ray West, managing director of Sisu in the UK.
"The announcement has to be good news, particularly now we know ownership is staying in Finland," Mr West says.
"It was common knowledge that the Finnish government wanted to reduce its stake in Sisu (now 30%, rather than about 75%), and there was concern we would be swallowed up by a big American company."
"Now the uncertainty is behind us, we can concentrate on developing our tractor range."
Even before the Partek merger, Sisu had surprised many in the UK tractor industry with its performance since setting up its own distribution operation in 1992. At that time, Valmet – as it was then – had just 20 dealers, its biggest tractor was 100/110hp, and the firm sold around 20 units/year.
Today, it is a very different picture. Runcorn-based Sisu Machinery now has 70 dealer outlets, pumps out around 500 tractors a year, has a full model fleet up to 190hp and is a mainstream player on the UK tractor market.
Next target is to push annual sales up to 1000 units in three years – a goal Mr West concedes may be tough to achieve.
"The competition now takes us far more seriously, and will make life difficult," he says.
"But we still have scope to expand, particularly in the arable regions."
Key to those plans may be the introduction of more powerful tractors, with many rivals offering models up to 240hp+. Sisu already has the engine – a new 8.4-litre 645-series motor, designed to push out up to 350hp is just going into production at Sisus engine factory – but, as yet, has no suitable gearbox to match. Watch this space.
As for the likelihood of a Valmet telescopic handler appearing in the UK, there are some interesting possibilities. Sisu Terminal Systems, a sister division in the Sisu group, is the worlds largest maker of container/trailer handling equipment at airports and ports (22-23% market share), and certainly has the technology to build a rough terrain forklift.
Could a Valmet farm telescopic happen? Definitely not in the foreseeable future, is the company line. Its policy remains firmly one of concentrating on tractors.
• Sisu celebrated 50 years of Valmet engine building last month.
Sisu Machinerys Ray West.