READY TO RUMBLE
AGCO KICKS INTO HIGH GEAR TO SELL ITS NEW LINE OF TRACTORS SPORTING THE AGCO NAME
by Debbie Coakley, Contributing Editor
"Introducing AGCO brand tractors was a very significant step for us," says Randy Hoffman, vice president, sales and marketing, North America of AGCO Corp., based in Duluth, Ga. "When we decided to put the AGCO name on the side of our product, we knew it must be the best we could offer."
Therefore, the company turned to its entire team to help with the endeavor. "It was a group process involving engineering, manufacturing, marketing, sales, dealer panels and customers," Hoffman reports. "For the new line to be a success, the whole organization has to be behind the brand and do whatever it takes to satisfy our customers."
Wilbur Laker, owner of Laker Farm Implement Services Inc. in Rushville, Ind., and a member of the AGCO Allis dealer panel, says he's happy to see the AGCO name on the side of a tractor. "It's a good thing," says Laker, whose dealership has been in business since 1978. "I'm hearing very positive comments from customers who are coming in to test-drive the new tractors."
Hoffman says having the full support of dealers is key to the success of the new tractor line. "By focusing our resources on the growth of a single tractor brand rather than two, we can build one strong brand that will offer farmers the advanced technology and productivity they expect and demand," he explains.
AGCO started working closely with its Allis and White dealer panels in 1999 on a strategy to merge the two brands into one. "What we heard loud and clear from the dealers was that it was appropriate to put the corporate name on the tractors," says Dennis Heinecke, vice president, Challenger Products and AGCO Tractor.
He adds that dealers observed that AGCO is a positive name in the marketplace and reflects a strong, financially capable company. "Because of some of the turmoil in the farm industry with other major manufacturers, dealers are looking for a company to provide clear direction to what the future is," Heinecke says. "That's what we're giving them."
Selecting the color for the new equipment was a top concern. "Color is an emotional issue with customers, particularly for farm tractors," Heinecke notes. "We wanted input from our dealers and customers."
So the marketing team analyzed market share for the AGCO Allis and White brands and researched brand recognition. "Combining the results of the research with the comments from our dealer panels, we decided to go with the corporate orange color," Heinecke says.
Jim Maciel, store manager for Tri-Counties Equipment Co. in
Hanford, Calif., and a member of AGCO's dealer panel, says some White dealers resisted using orange. "But they realized we need to have a single, unified brand with one
color," he explains. "Going with the AGCO name and color shows the company is committed to the brand and to our customers. Our reputation is on the line."
A lot more than a brand name and color has gone into the new tractors. "We integrated the best features from the AGCO Allis and White tractors into the new line," Hoffman says. "We addressed performance issues, standardized the Cummins engine into the new line and corrected all known reliability issues before we went into production."
The result is a brand of tractor dealers that are eager to get their customers to test-drive. "All the publicity is stirring up a lot of interest," Maciel says. "Farmers are coming in wanting to see and drive the tractors."
Maciel's first shipment of AGCO tractors was due to arrive in early 2002. An open house was set for February so customers can drive the tractors, see how they handle and get a look at the improvements, particularly the electronics. "AGCO has spent a lot of money making a very reliable, full-featured tractor that is equivalent or ahead of the industry in just about every category," he points out.
All former AGCO Allis and White dealers across North America are now AGCO dealers. Heinecke notes that the company will continue to provide long-term parts support for the AGCO Allis and White tractors, plus upgrade packages and programs for future maintenance requirements.
HITTING THE ROAD
To get its 500 North American dealers up to speed on the new tractors, AGCO sponsored 11 regional introductions in August through October. "Our goal was to get as many dealers, salespeople and servicemen to drive the tractors," Heinecke says. He adds that the company achieved close to 100 percent dealer participation in the meetings.
As soon as each meeting was over, the company shipped tractors to the dealers, Heinecke notes. Then the dealers sponsored field demonstrations, open houses or customer meetings to show off the new tractors. AGCO supported dealers with a variety of incentives to bring in customers. (See sidebar on page 46.) "The message to the customer has been: You've got to drive one to experience the new features," Heinecke says.
AGCO also utilized field demonstrations at major farm shows this past fall so farmers could drive the tractors.
What's more, as part of AGCO's commitment to get all employees involved in the success of the new brand, team members recently traveled to the manufacturing plant in France to make a special presentation to employees. "It's the first time we've stopped production at the plant for such an event," Hoffman points out. "We wanted to show the team members - everyone from manufacturing, purchasing and engineering - how important it is to satisfy our customers. Our message was: Don't ship a tractor unless it is right."
ALL IN THE FAMILY
The full line of AGCO tractors boasts four series - three introduced in the fall of 2001 and the ST Series of compact tractors ranging from 23 to 44 engine horsepower, which debuted in late 2000. The tractors are intended to increase productivity and ease of use for the operators. Features of the three larger series include:
AGCO LT Series tractors - 70 to 85 PTO horsepower
• Turbocharged Cummins 3.9L engines
• Quiet, spacious cabs or folding ROPS
• 24X24 PowerShuttle transmission
* 2WD or PFA
• 540 and 1000 RPM PTO standard
AGCO RT Series tractors - 95 to 145 PTO horsepower
• Turbocharged Cummins 5.9L engines
• Quiet, spacious cabs or 2-post ROPS
• 32X32 Auto QuadraShift or Dual Control powershift
• Closed-center, pressure flow-compensated electro-hydraulics
AGCO DT Series tractors - 160 to 225 PTO horsepower
• Turbocharged Cummins 8.3L engines
• Quiet, spacious cabs with instructor's seat
• Dual control powershift transmission
• Up to 19,000 pounds of 3-point lift capacity
Laker points out that his dealership's customers are especially interested in the powershift on the steering column, which makes the tractors a lot more comfortable to operate. "I'm also impressed with the electric hydraulics as well as the autoshift," he notes.
SIGNS OF SUCCESS
Hoffman says AGCO has been overwhelmed by the success of the new tractors. "We're very pleased with the sales and dealer activity," he notes.
Heinecke reports that close to 1,000 initial tractor orders have been written so far. "That's a significant number," he says. "Plus, the retail sales are exceeding our wildest expectations."
In addition, the new AGCO line is expected to provide the opportunity for the company to double its market share in North America, Hoffman notes. "We expect to realize a 10 percent improvement in margin over the two tractor brands the new line replaced," he explains. "These cost savings will be attributable to focusing energy and capital resources into one product."
Heinecke adds that the new line of AGCO tractors will allow the company to carve out its own piece of market share. "AGCO will now build market share with its three major tractor lines - AGCO, FENDT and Massey Ferguson," he explains. "Each has its own unique position in the marketplace and will contribute to the company's continuing growth." AM
Debbie Coakley is a freelance writer based in Warrenville, Ill.