If you think it’s been hot here on the
prairie, you should have been in the U.S. midwest last week.
Temperatures there ranged into the mid to high 30s, celcius. Along
with those temperatures, there was high humidity. So much, in fact,
that in the morning the rear window of my rental car was completely
obscured with dew when I started it up outside my hotel in Beloit,
I was one of several writers there to
a short drive from our hotel out into the countryside, the convoy of
writers’ cars pulled into a recently-harvested wheat field off a
county road. Parked at the edge of the field was a selection of
tractors from AGCO’s Challenger, Massey Ferguson and Fendt lines,
each hitched to a Sunflower tillage implement. Sunflower, of course,
is also an AGCO brand.
Writers and company product representatives gather around a line up of AGCO’s newest tractors and tillage equipment in a Kansas wheat field.
The Sunflower manufacturing plant is
located in Beloit, which is part of the reason AGCO chose this site
senior managers I’ve spoke to at AGCO over the past couple of years
have repeatedly said they like having their manufacturing plants in
rural communities, and Beloit is certainly rural. Located in
north-central Kansas, it boasts a population of only 3,600 people.
Getting to events in small centres like
Beloit adds a level of complexity for anyone coming from Canada. You
don’t just fly into a major airport and grab a cab to the venue. You
need a rental car and a good road map for trips like this. As
everyone stood in the field and introductions were made, some of my
fellow writers from the U.S. were a bit surprised to find out I’d
come from that far away.
So, why did I make the trip, they
asked. Well, the old expression, “if you want to catch fish you
fish I was after on this occasion was a look at a not-yet-released
new Challenger MT700D tractor. Getting a chance to get behind the
wheel of a machine not yet publicly introduced made all that
The MT700D Series Challengers are
milestone machines in the history of the brand. The two models in the
line, which are the smaller of the belted tractors, are the first
tracked Challengers to be powered by something other than a
Caterpillar engine. Under the hoods of these tractors is an 8.4-litre
AGCO Power diesel.
Executives at AGCO have said they
intend to put their own AGCO Power (formerly SISU) engines under the
hood of every tractor they build. With the belted tractors starting
to make the conversion, they’re nearly there.
AGCO Power engines are built in
Finland, and the company believes they have a winner with these
diesels. According to product specialists with the company, the
engines incorporate a higher-than-average level of precision
engineering, such as balancing the rotating assemblies to within one
gram. That’s the kind of thing racing engine builders do for NASCAR.
Certainly, many buyers of Challenger
tractors liked having Cat power under the hood. As AGCO expands the
range of products that use its own engine, customers will, no doubt,
take notice. How these AGCO engines perform over the long haul will
be key to winning over prospective belted-tractor buyers and keeping
existing owners coming back.