Executives at Winnipeg’s Buhler Industries, and many of their dealers who handle the Versatile line of tractors, gathered in Las Vegas in early January for the company’s annual dealer convention. There was more than the balmy desert air to warm their hearts.
Surrounded by new equipment, company president Dimitry Lyubimov announced management’s plan to build on Versatile’s product line and turn the tractor brand into a full-line equipment manufacturer. “We realize to be competitive we need to offer a full line of equipment,” he said.
As a first step, the company unveiled six new machines for 2010. They include two new four-wheel drive tractors, three new MFWD tractors and the first high-clearance, self-propelled sprayer to ever wear Versatile red.
Model SX 275 sprayer is powered by a 275 hp Cummins 6.7-litre engine connected to an Allison automatic transmission, which delivers power to the rear axle through a mechanical drive. According to a product specialist at the event, the mechanical drive allows for lower parasitic power losses than competing hydrostatic drive models. That gives the SX 275 the highest net horsepower in its class.
Boom widths run from 80 to 120 feet and a 1,200-gallon stainless steel product tank is standard. A branded GPS system is available right from the factory for the first time. The V-PAS (Versatile Precision Ag System) option is available on tractors as well, and is based on Raven Industries’ technology.
Buhler purchased the sprayer design, which had previously been marketed under the Redball brand name. Adam Reid, Buhler Industries’ marketing manager, says the sprayer’s straightforward design fit well with the Versatile product philosophy. “It carries the Versatile hallmarks — it’s reliable, easy to operate and maintain,” he said in an address to dealers and farm media.
The four-wheel drive tractor line now has a new 575 hp flagship model that puts Versatile back near the top in the maximum horsepower race. It offers a thermostatically-controlled Flexxaire cooling fan to minimize horsepower loss and the industry’s first class-5 drawbar.
The 575’s cab is the same as those on other tractors in the HHT (High Horsepower Tractor) line, but there are a few updates. The exhaust has been repositioned to minimize interior noise, and additional soundproofing has been added to the floor. These improvements will soon appear on other HHT models, too.
A scraper-special model joins the four-wheel drive line as well. And it’s available as either a 435 or 485.
The MFWD tractor line grew from two to five models. Models 220 and 190, with horsepower to match model number, extend the range’s lower hp end. Equipped with 24-speed partial powershift transmissions and shuttle shift, they are aimed at producers who need a capable field tractor but also want a relatively nimble machine for front-end loader work.
And although it won’t appear on dealers’ lots until later in the year, a 305-hp model extends the top end of the MFWD range.
Lyubimov says Rostselmash, Buhler’s Russian parent company, has developed a new class-8 combine which is currently undergoing field testing. Depending on how it performs under North American conditions, it may eventually form part of the Versatile equipment family.
If it does, one of the few remaining gaps in Lyubimov’s full-line goal would be a seeder. (Equipment in Versatile’s sister brand, Farm King, provides balers, augers, grain vacs and other tools in the line.) A seeder may not be long in coming. “We’re looking for an acquisition,” says Lyubimov.
Scott Garvey specializes in writing about tractors and farm machinery technology for publications in Canada and Great Britain. He’s also a former affiliate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). He farms near Moosomin, Sask.