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Buhler relaunches Versatile tractor brand

A storied brand name in the Canadian farm tractor business is coming out from under other companies’ logos for the first time in about 20 years.

Winnipeg’s Buhler Industries, makers of the Buhler Versatile and Genesis tractor lines, officially announced Thursday that Versatile will be the only brand associated with Buhler’s tractor division, which until now has sold Buhler Versatile tractors across North America and into the former Soviet Union.

Buhler, which has been majority-owned by Russian combine maker Rostselmash since last November, relaunched the Versatile brand and previewed its new Versatile models at a dealer meeting Thursday in Winnipeg.

The relaunched brand comes with what company president Dmitry Lyubimov described as a completely new proposal for the brand’s dealers, including dealer financing options and delivery of parts for repair within 24 hours, all meant to achieve the company’s “aggressive targets” for sales.

Lyubimov and other company officials discussed rebranding, new products, new hires and organizational changes at Buhler’s tractor division at a meeting Wednesday with Canadian and U.S. farm media. The changes, he said, are more than cosmetic.

“We play in the big league, we want to act like a big-league player,” said sales director Eric Allison. The Versatile division, he said, has never had a financing plan, a service department manager, a parts manager or a technical publications department until now.

The company also launched a new three-year/3,000-hour warranty for new Versatiles sold after Nov. 1, including the standard two-year/2,000-hour warranty plus an extra one-year/1,000-hour powertrain warranty covering components such as the engine, transmission, axles and differentials.

Ford, New Holland, Buhler

Versatile dates back to 1945, when Peter Pakosh developed a new type of grain auger in his Toronto backyard. Pakosh’s company expanded into field sprayers and harrow drawbars and gave them the Versatile brand name in 1947. Pakosh and partner Roy Robinson moved the entire company to Winnipeg by 1952, later entering the pull-type combine market and, in 1966, the fledgling four-wheel-drive tractor market.

The company was bought out by Vancouver’s Cornat Industries in 1977, then again in 1987 by Ford’s tractor division, which merged the operation with its Sperry New Holland acquisition, into Ford New Holland.

The Versatile brand all but disappeared beneath the Ford logo on the new tractor lines, then again under the New Holland logo when Fiat bought Ford New Holland in 1993. It became larger beneath the Buhler logo when Case IH and New Holland merged into CNH in 2000 and sold the Versatile tractor division to Buhler to meet federal antitrust requirements.

For its relaunch on Thursday, Buhler “went back to the most recognized Versatile logo,” said advertising manager Adam Reid, referring to the winged “V” symbol launched in the early 1980s. The Genesis name, he said, is gone effective immediately.

The rebranding takes place globally, with Versatile set to replace the better-known Buhler name on its tractors sold overseas. Lyubimov said the decision to rebrand globally wasn’t taken lightly, given Versatile’s history.

“The name stands for well-built tractors that are powerful, simple and easy to maintain,” he said in a release Thursday. “It is the same philosophy we use today and we are proud of that heritage.”

That said, the rebranding will not affect Buhler’s other ag equipment divisions, which will continue to build Allied, Farm King and Inland equipment.

At its relaunch, Buhler Versatile (which will remain the legal name of the division) unveiled the new Versatile 250 and 280 models, which go to market in early 2009 and replace the Buhler Genesis 2180 and 2210. Both models will be powered by Cummins QSC 8.3-litre engines, providing 250 and 280 engine horsepower and 200 and 225 PTO horsepower respectively.

The Cummins engines replace the European-built 7.5-litre Genesis engines, as part of an expanded partnership with Versatile. Cummins already provides the 11-litre QSM and 15-litre QSX models that power Versatile’s 4-WD models.

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