A few years ago I was invited to the official launch of the Fendt 500 Series tractors in Europe, which happened a couple of years before they debuted here. AGCO, which of course owns Fendt, invited two machinery editors from the U.S. and one from Canada, me. We found ourselves at a big event at Fendt HQ in Marktoberdorf Germany.
AGCO had made a big party out of it. There were government officials there for speeches to a very large crowd. And need I say it, no shortage of oom-pah-pah bands. It was Bavaria after all.
As the other two U.S. writers and I stood with our North American AGCO marketing rep. sipping beer in the middle of things, another AGCO rep from Fendt’s European branch came up and began speaking to us. When the three of us were introduced to her, she smiled, looked at the North American rep and said, “All this for 400 tractors”? (Meaning flying three editors all the way to Europe.)
Our AGCO guy host almost choked on his beer in mid gulp. Unlike in Europe, ag equipment manufacturers here don’t make public the number of tractors they sell in North America, or any type of machine for that matter. That’s something my European colleagues in the machinery writing business almost always shake their heads at when I tell them. In the UK or on the continent the number of new tractors sold each year is public information, primarily because new tractors get registered with government agencies, just the way cars are here.
All three of us writers knew Fendt wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire with North American sales at the time. But we managed to learn a snippet of information from that off-the-cuff comment from someone who didn’t understand the North American protocol. We three had a good laugh amongst ourselves later recalling the incident.
With the globalization of the industry, it’s getting harder for brands to keep secrets when the rules in one part of the world are different from another. A couple of weeks ago at an official address to a European press conference, vice president of the Fendt brand for Europe, Peter-Josef Paffen, talked about sales numbers for his green machines all across the globe.
To summarize what he said, AGCO is bullish on the future prospects for Fendt. And its sales numbers have been exceeding industry trends in places, especially some European countries. With almost a quarter of the market in Germany, it’s the number one selling brand there. I remember a German farmer telling me many young farmers there think of Fendt as the BMW of tractor brands, and nearly all of them aspire to own one someday.
Here in North America, that 400-unit sales number has now been left in the dust, Paffen said. “For the first time we will sell more than 800 units in North America,” he told journalists. (That includes those Fendt models disguised as Challengers, such as the relatively new 1000 Series tractors.) And the new Ideal combine, which brings the Fendt combine brand here for the first time, is further propelling the brand forward in Canada and the U.S.
Paffen had a comment to make about future sales goals as well: “The rather solid Fendt business development in North America enables a premature increase in the number of planned tractors (sales) to 2,000 in the medium term. The prior goal was at 1,000 units,” he said.
The other green brand, it seems, is settling into the North American market quite nicely. That makes me wonder—given the high-spec nature of Fendt tractors—are we becoming more European in our expectations of farm equipment, or have they become more North American?