Over the years, prairie farmers have become used to seeing regional companies, primarily seeding equipment and short-line manufacturers, unveil new products at shows in Western Canada. But for the most part, the major brands have used major U.S. events almost exclusively to pull the wraps off their new machinery introductions.
That is, until recently.
New Holland is a prime example of that change in strategy. In the past couple of seasons, NH has chosen to introduce its new small grains combine and high clearance sprayer at the Canadian Western Agribition in Regina. Former North American vice president Abe Hughes told me during one of our conversations NH used the Saskatchewan show as a launch venue partly to demonstrate to prairie growers that the company considers them to be important customers.
Compared to the demand for corn and beans machinery that dominates the North American market, small grains represents a relatively small segment. It’s limited to Western Canada and the Northern U.S. Plains. But that means the company could still have stuck with U.S. events for small grains equipment launches.
It has been nice to see brands spread the love, so to speak, recognizing the value of the Canadian farm equipment market and holding debut events here. After all the Canadian equipment market is still a significant one. Canadian farmers buy a lot of equipment. All the executives at major brands publicly acknowledge that.
This past week, Regina was again chosen as a debut venue for a major brand. This time it was Ford. The Canadian Western Agribition played host to a public unveiling of the brand’s 2017 Super Duty trucks. It was a Canadian Debut rather than a North American one, with the U.S. introduction happening about a month earlier in Texas. Sales of pickups in that U.S. state far exceed those in any other part of the country.
According to Bill Rowe, Ford’s marketing director, that was the same reason the company Chose the Regina show for the Canadian unveiling; it’s the heart of Canadian Super Duty country.
“The question of why are we at Agribition,” he explained. “Take a look around. These are our customers. We wanted to showcase the 2017 Super Duty to people who use the Super Duty.”
In a couple of months, the trucks will certainly take centre stage at the major auto shows, which are held in major metropolitan areas. People there buy trucks too. But drive past any rural prairie car dealership and at least 90 percent of the lot is jammed with pickups. That’s a pretty strong hint Rowe knows who buys his trucks.
Although the 2017 Super Duty is 10 months or so away from production and the company hasn’t even released all of the specs for the new models, events like the Regina debut are meant to get potential buyers excited about them. A debut event with all the attention it captures attracts show goers’ attention much more than a truck or combine sitting quietly in a display, no matter how new it is.
It makes sense for major brands to hold events like this here. Aside from grabbing extra attention from visitors at the shows; they generate Canadian media attention (like this blog entry), and give manufacturers some serious bang for their Canadian marketing buck. So, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the trend continue at Western Canadian shows in the coming season.