Compact Equipment

OCT 2018

Compact Equipment is a magazine dedicated to equipment owners and operators of small, nimble, tool-carrying construction, landscape and ag equipment — such as skid steers, mini excavators, compact tractors, generators compressors and beyond.

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48 Compact Equipment OCTOBER 2018 With the U.S. economy on a roll, who is buying an economy trac- tor instead of a fuller-featured one? Prosperity means perks, after all. The fact is, buyers of value-priced tractors may be as financially secure as anyone, but tractor work is not their full-time gig. They simply are being prudent in sticking to basics in their tractors. "Basic tractor buyers are people who have other jobs and are not going to be using their tractor all day every day," says Ben Housch, Yanmar ag product manager. "It's somebody who is more concerned about the utility of a machine and wants one that can get the job done in the quickest way." Tim Phillips, Kioti national sales manager, describes a broader range of buyers, from homeowners to hobby farmers, municipality workers to landscapers. "The core of this 25- to 40-hp group is the first-time tractor buyer, a landowner of 3 to 20 acres. It's either a situation where a tractor is necessary to maintain property or a cus- tomer has a connection to the land and a desire to be outside. Those are the core demographics." And do these first-time tractor owners tend to trade up? More and more, they do, according to Phillips. "Initially the compact utility tractor buyer made his first new tractor his last one. Now the trend is changing. We are seeing a lot of first-time tractor buyers start with a 25- to 30-hp product, but their needs change or they want to be more comfortable with an air-conditioned cab or a tractor with more horsepower. Now, typically, they trade up two or three times." The front-end loader is king. "Ninety-seven percent of the utility tractors we sell have a loader on it," says Ryan Pearcy, product development specialist at Mahindra USA. Mahindra's basic 4540 tractor has "very, very minimal electronics," according to Pearcy. "That appeals to older operators." That doesn't mean the economy tractors are less productive or, for that matter, less fun to operate. They just offer fewer creature comforts. Phillips says: "In the Kioti value series, you will see a few more manual controls. From a performance standpoint, it doesn't have any impact whatsoever." Possibly the newest basic utility tractor on the market, Yanmar's Solis line, makes no bones about its roots. Ben Housch, Yanmar's ag product manager, compares the So- lis models 24 and 40 (indicating horsepower) to the leg- endary Ford 8N and comparable International models of yesteryear — compact tractors with good lugging power that excelled where the tine entered the ground. "Solis re- ally wants to outwork the competition in terms of doing the dirt work, and that will translate well to other work." The smaller Solis 24-hp tractor and its 40-hp stablemate are still in transition into the U.S. marketplace. A Tier 4 Final version of the larger model has been around a while and the Tier 4 Final model 24 was introduced in Septem- ber. The tractors are so new that final prices haven't been announced. "Solis is very cost-conscious. They want to make sure they are lower than the majority of the compe- tition in the market. They will be very cost-competitive products," Housch says. A year ago, Yanmar bought a bigger piece of Internation- al Tractors, an Indian tractor maker that sells its products in 80 countries. The partnership is looking to expand its North American presence through Solis. "Yanmar makes excellent compact utility tractors, but we don't get up into these larger utility models. This will allow us to tar- get a different customer," Housch says. "The Yanmar and Solis lines complement each other more than they com- pete. It's a good fit all the way around." The Solis tractors offer basic features. The 40, for ex- ample, has two-wheel drive and an eight forward, two reverse manual transmission. "It's pretty much a basic tractor in its electronics, not anything complicated," Housch says. This paring down of features differs from the Yanmar line, such as the YT235, a 34-hp unit with hydrostatic transmission weighing some 2,700 lbs. Housch calls the 235 a "good-sized tractor that's hard to beat." The various manufacturers stress different features in their economy models, but it all comes down to utility. These basic models are built for utility, not convenience. With ROPS instead of enclosed cabs. Bare operator platform floors, instead of matted ones. Fixed steering wheels, instead of tilting ones. One manufacturer extols the addition of steps to mount its economy model, elimi- nating the "lurch" otherwise needed to climb on. That's pretty basic. Giles Lambertson is a freelancer writer for Compact Equipment. WHO'S BUYING BASIC?

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