Kubota Corporation announced Thursday a partnership with Buhler Industries Inc. to build a new and larger line of Kubota tractors in a horsepower range exceeding that of its M7s. Those units offer engine options up to 170 horsepower (hp).
Kubota believes its higher-horsepower tractor line will accelerate its penetration of the North American tractor market (U.S. and Canada). "Buhler has a proven track record for designing, manufacturing, and distributing large tractors in North America," Kubota says in a news release. It plans to roll out its new tractor in the second half of this year, with it becoming widely available in early 2020.
At this date, Kubota is not releasing details about the tractor with the exception that it will be Kubota orange.
"We're announcing to our family that we're pregnant, but we're not telling you the gender yet," Martin Carrier, product marketing director, Ag Equipment, Kubota Tractor Corporation, said Wednesday during a background interview with DTN/Progressive Farmer. "We want industry to know we are moving forward with a larger tractor."
Carrier describes the tractor that will be built with Buhler as a "customized OEM" collaboration.
"We mean that we work together on this project. But this is not an off-the-self product [Buhler] may offer and [Kubota] is just painting it orange. It is built to our specs. It is not a generic-component tractor, just pieces bolted together. This product will look and feel like a Kubota, only bigger." Bigger than Kubota's M7, Carrier added. "It's important this tractor will be integrated smoothly into the Kubota lineup."
Carrier said Kubota does not take lightly its move into a bigger-tractor segment. "We mean business and we will be a reliable business partner in this horsepower segment," he said.
Kubota sees this move in the tractor segment as continuation of a strategy began more than a decade ago when Kubota decided to become a significant player in the commercial ag market -- especially in the livestock sector where tractors often fall within the upper end of the utility and lower end of the row-crop markets. Its progression has been steady.
Kubota purchased Salina, Kansas-based Great Plains Manufacturing Inc. in 2016 for $430 million. That deal expanded on a 2007 North American alliance Kubota had with Great Plains' turf and landscape implement division Land Pride. The purchase was Kubota's largest move to date into the North American farm equipment market. It followed Kubota's 2012 acquisition of European ag manufacturer Kverneland ASA.
Kubota first entered the U.S. tractor market in 1969 with its subcompact, 21 hp L200. Forty-five years later, Kubota's newest venture produced its biggest-ever flagship field tractor, the M7 Series, sporting a power plant up to 170 hp. Its M7 Gen 2 tractor was introduced just this year with three models ranging from 100 to 140 PTO horsepower.
With the tractor announced Thursday, Kubota is targeting potential buyers who are feeding livestock, baling, mowing and raking and who also have a row-crop component. "You are planting some corn, but you're not planting 10,000 acres of corn. You may be running an 8-, 12- or 16-row planter, but not a 16- to 48-row corn planter," Carrier says. "We are providing them with an option that gives them what they need, but not necessarily all the bells and whistles that raises the price tag without bringing any value to them."
The new tractor represents another deliberate forward for Kubota. "We want to be a major, global brand. When we enter a market, we want to be recognized as a valuable, significant player in that market," Carrier says. "We want to make sure that livestock farmer can find products (tractors and implements) in the Kubota portfolio to do the work on his farm."
Buhler is headquartered in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. It builds tractors, front-end loaders, augers and compact implements, among other machinery. Buhler brands include Farm King, Allied, Inland and Versatile. The manufacturer reported revenue of $288 million in 2018, down $24 million from the year before. The company blames weak commodity markets.
Kubota Tractor Corporation, of Grapevine, Texas, currently manufactures a line of tractors up to 170 hp -- and soon beyond -- performance-matched implements, compact and utility-class construction equipment, consumer lawn and garden equipment, hay tools and spreaders, commercial turf products and utility vehicles. Kubota Corporation reported revenue of about $16.5 billion in 2018.
Dan Miller can be reached at email@example.com
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