Last December, AGCO gave its Challenger dealers a bit of a Christmas present. It announced an updated line of MT800 Challenger tracked tractors that mirror its Fendt 1100 MT series brothers.
The four new Challenger models, with 511, 564, 618 and 673 horsepower ratings, match the Fendts’ power outputs exactly. A spec sheet comparison between the yellow challengers and the green Fendts reads pretty closely, too. Making the yellow MT800 Challengers and green 1100 MT Fendts almost twins.
The Challengers get a similar steerable three-point hitch system option introduced last summer on the Fendts, which allows for easier turns under high draught loads. (A category 5 fixed drawbar with an 11,000 vertical load rating is standard equipment.) And the SmartRide+ load-levelling suspension system that debuted on the Fendts becomes a Challenger option too.
It could be argued AGCO is basically giving North American buyers a choice of colours when spec’ing out a two-track tractor. However, operators will notice some control differences inside the cab. And the Challengers get a 2,000-hour limited warranty, while the Fendt versions qualify for that brand’s 3,000-hour, 36-month, Gold Star Customer Care warranty program.
Just as with the Fendts, power comes from a 15.2-litre MAN diesel for the three smaller models and a 16.2-litre MAN for the flagship model. That power gets routed through a step-less CVT transmission. Both engines are designed to work in a low speed range of 1,000 to 1,700 revolutions per minute, providing maximum torque from 1,100 to 1,450 r.p.m.
In the Challenger tractors, the CVT transmission is dubbed the Accu-VT, and it allows for ground speeds from just 65 feet per minute up to a roading speed of 25 miles per hour (40 kilometres per hour). There are four track belt widths available from 18 to 36 inches.
When it comes to hydraulics, the Challengers match their Fendt brothers with the same two available options: a single pump providing 58.1 gallons per minute (219 litres per minute) at 1,700 r.p.m. or the dual pump, dual circuit system delivering up to 116.2 gallons per minute (439 L/min). This dual system dedicates one pump each to the left and right valve blocks, so implements can be connected according to their flow requirements. Each pump delivers only the flow that is required, whether high or low, even at low throttle.
With separate oil reservoirs for transmission lubrication and implement hydraulics, the service interval gets extended to 2,000 hours. And, yup, ditto on the Fendts.
Available Challenger Guide smart farming guidance package options allow an operator to connect an MT800 series tractor to a variety of systems on the market today, such as Challenger Guide Contour Assistant and the TI Headland automated operating sequence. The AGCO Connectivity Module enables communication with Challenger Connect, the MT800 series telemetry system, to manage fleets and quickly identify error codes.
A couple of years ago, AGCO discontinued the Challenger brand in Europe, giving its product line to Fendt. And this past summer, of course, Fendt brand two-track tractors debuted in North America. AGCO’s senior management has publicly declared its intention to make Fendt a global full-liner and its premium brand offering. The obvious question is, will the Challenger brand remain a fixture on dealership lots here as Fendt rises to prominence?
Despite the earlier and louder introduction of the similar Fendt two-track tractors, the press announcement from AGCO announcing the MT800s seemed to acknowledge the fact there are still loyal Challenger devotees on this side of the Atlantic.
“AGCO is excited to introduce the long-anticipated new Challenger MT800 series track tractors to our loyal Challenger customers throughout North America,” said David Soliday, AGCO senior tactical marketing manager, in the press release. “They’ve been asking for improved efficiency in a high-horsepower track tractor with the benefits of flotation and the ease of a step-less transmission.”
I recall several years ago being at a press briefing where North American general manager and senior vice-president, Bob Crain, was asked if AGCO intended to keep all the many brand names it had acquired, as it purchased various companies in the organization’s earlier days. He discussed the pros and cons of having so many marques, and acknowledged that deciding whether or not to consolidate some brands was something senior management would have to eventually grapple with.
During a Fendt European press conference that was streamed live online to all machinery journalists, Martin Richenhagen, AGCO’s outgoing CEO, was asked about the future of the Challenger brand. It was the question everyone logged into the event was waiting to hear answered. And clearly, discussing a possible discontinuation of a brand (if that really is in the cards) is a difficult one for any senior executive to address.
When AGCO discontinued the orange AGCO brand of tractors several years ago, it faced a lot of blowback from those who saw it as a direct extension of the extinct Allis-Chalmers brand.
Here’s Richenhagen’s answer to the Challenger question.
“Of course, when you talk about a brand disappearing in public, then dealers are upset and all the owners of a product would also be upset. So, let me answer that as follows: Challenger is the exclusive brand for Caterpillar dealers in North America. It is not used elsewhere. In Europe, we already excluded the brand from our range. And the Challenger dealers in the United States are also sales partners with Fendt. So, this means my answer to the question is, it is a very good question. Can we move on to the next one.”