VERSATILE has reached a milestone this year celebrating its 50th year partnership with Cummins.
It was in 1966 that Versatile became the first company to mass-produce articulated 4WD tractors and in 1967, it established a partnership with Cummins in which all Versatile tractors were powered with Cummins engines.
Versatile launched its Tier 4 Final engines in 2016 and will continue to roll out Tier 4 Final engines in all products this year.
Recently the company hosted a special event for its dealers at its Winnipeg factory in Manitoba, Canada with its research and development Centre transformed in a blaze of red, yellow and black - symbolic of the colours of the Versatile tractors sold between 1966 and 1986.
Cummins supplied two Tier 4 Final engines for the event - a QSX15, which powers the largest Versatile tractors, and a QSL9, which powers the row-crop model.
The event included the appearance of a restored 1966 C10 Chevrolet pick-up truck featuring custom red, yellow and black paint along with the famous "Big Roy", a monstrous 26 tonne, four axle 8x8 drive, powered by a 19 litre Cummins KTA 1150-600 diesel generating 448kW (600hp). A camera system with in-cab monitors was used for the operator.
It was built in 1977 during an era in which tractor manufacturers were trying to outdo one another to see who could build the biggest tractor.
For the 50th-year celebration, Big Roy was fully restored, and will go on display later this year at the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum.
The Big Roy was among the big "mothers" but Steiger weighed in with a 480kW (650hp) model, while Big Bud had the 747, boasting a 560kW (750hp) power plant but it is said to have been tuned to 716kW (960hp) for broadacre work in the United States.
In Australia, New South Wales manufacturer Baldwin built six models between 1982 and 1986 with power ratings between 216kW (290hp) and 448kW, making it the most powerful commercial Australian tractor ever built.
FENDT MARKET GROWING
PH KERR machinery dealer principal Brian Kerr was heartened by the response to his move to set up a branch in Katanning in 2012, primarily as an AGCO dealer.
Speaking with Torque last week, he had big wraps for the Fendt tractor, which is starting to gain traction in the Great Southern.
"I think initially farmers just wanted to see how it would perform in WA and see how it stood up against the competition.
"Now Fendt has a good name because of its reliability and high re-sale value.
"Service is always mentioned as if you need a specialist technician to service it but from our experience, most of the service is done over the phone because the tractors are self-diagnostic.
"It really is a matter of checking codes when an error occurs and a quick reference from the operator's manual generally sorts out most problems.
"They are one of the simplest tractors to repair, which might surprise you considering all the technology associated with it.
"And the bonus is a reduction in service costs, including call-outs."
To emphasise the re-sale of Fendts, Brian pointed to last week's Farm Weekly which reported a Fendt 712 with 1840 hours on the clock topping an Esperance clearing sale at $92,000.
As to his appraisal of the 2017 season, he considers it will be a steady year for sales.
"We're picking up on inquiry and this recent rain will add further confidence to the industry," he said.
"I expect we'll have a good year but if it is a really good year I expect 2018 to be really good."
AGCO PREDICTS NEW CHALLENGES
AGCO chairman Martin Richenhagen is never one to mince words.
So it was totally predictable when he foreshadowed another tough year ahead while commenting on the company's 2016 fourth quarter performance report last week.
"The past year was a challenging year due to continued weakening global market demand for agricultural equipment," he said.
"Despite these difficult conditions, our solid operational execution during 2016 allowed us to exceed our financial targets and be well-positioned to seek new opportunities for growth.
"Looking forward to 2017, industry conditions are expected to remain near the bottom of the agricultural equipment cycle in key markets."
Softer industry demand is expected throughout North America and Europe, partially offset by growth in South America but the company's net sales for 2017 are expected to reach about $A9.6 billion, the same as the 2016 figure and slightly up on the 2015 result of $A9.5b.
According to Mr Richenhagen, sales declines were most pronounced in the row crop and professional hay producer sectors, with significantly lower industry retail sales of high-horsepower tractors, combines and grain storage and handling equipment.
While not "big bikkies", the company's AGCOs Asia/Pacific region (APAC), which includes Australia, saw a 21 per cent increase in net sales compared to 2015.
Income from operations increased about $A51m in the full year of 2016 compared to 2015 due to higher sales throughout the region and increased small tractor production in China.
What might be termed a comfort factor statement to shareholders not to abandon ship, Mr Richenhagen said the company's focus would continue on cost and expense reduction through globalising processes, reducing complexity and better levering scale.
If you know what he is talking about, you're chairman material.
By the way, AGCO's fourth quarter figures, net sales of about $A2.7m, compared to the 2015 figures of 2.6m.
It's a snail's crawl but it's heading in the right direction.