CHELSEA, Ala. (DTN) -- Small-tractor sales in 2022 cooled significantly from the last couple of years, but sales of combines in 2022 -- and even before that in 2021 and 2020 -- have been solid. Strong, too, were sales of 100-plus-horsepower two-wheel-drive tractors. Only in the final month of 2022, in December, did sales decline compared to the same month a year earlier, December 2021.
This data comes from the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM,) which has released its year-end Ag Tractor and Combine Report. It details sales for tractors and combines for both the month of December 2022 and for the entire year of 2022.
Combine sales have been on a firm, three-year run -- only an odd down month in all that time. Manufacturers pumped out 7,267 combines in 2022 -- up 15.8% from all of 2021. Sales were similarly strong in 2021. Then, the industry moved 6,278 combines out to their factory yards and dealer lots. That represented a 25% increase from 2020, itself a good year for combine sales (up 5.5% over 2019).
Industry experts believe farmers are eager to put their hands on the new harvesting technologies loaded into the newest combines. "The strength of combine harvester sales during this unusual time in ag markets is a testament to the advantages new technologies make in improving the quality and quantity of crops farmers can bring out of the field," said Curt Blades, senior vice president, industry sectors and product leadership at the Association of Equipment Manufacturers.
Among the four tractor categories tracked by AEM, those 100-plus-horsepower units did exceptionally well for all of 2022, except for December when sales ticked down 2.7% from December 2021. For the year 2022, 100-plus-horsepower tractor sales rose 11.3%.
Four-wheel-drive tractor sales were up nearly a third in December compared to a year ago, although actual unit numbers are relatively small. Manufacturers sold 520 four-wheel-drive units in December 2022 compared to 392 in December 2021. For the year, four-wheel-drive sales were down slightly, by 1.7% -- 3,469 four-wheel-drive tractors sold in 2022 compared to 3,529 in 2021.
The largest sales reversal in terms of units sold has been for tractors 40 to 100 horsepower and 40 horsepower and below. In the early days of COVID, these smaller tractors were an obvious bright spot for farm equipment manufacturers. White-collar employees migrated home as offices closed, and they were soon determined to improve the land outside their home office windows. They bought small tractors to do it, or their landscapers became buyers to manage their sudden burst of new business.
Sales of tractors 40 horsepower and below topped nearly 200,000 units in 2020, an increase of 21% over 2019. Sales of tractors 40 to 100 horsepower were nearly 70,000 units, up 13.8% over 2019. That market was hot again in 2021. Under-40-horsepower sales were up 8.9% over 2020, with more than 215,000 units sold. Sales of 40 to 100-horsepower units were up 10.3% to 75,400 tractors in 2021 compared to all of 2020.
Small-tractor sales cooled last year -- though let us not judge 2022 as a sales disaster. Under-40-horsepower tractor sales totaled 173,671 in 2022, down 19.3% (and down 26.7% for December alone, compared to December 2021). Sales of 40- to 100-horsepower tractors are off 10.7% in 2022 compared to 2021 -- 67,346 were sold in 2022 compared to 75,400 the year before. December sales for these tractors were off 9.3% compared to December 2021.
Those numbers look bad, and manufacturers will not dismiss them. But more optimistically, these numbers are coming down from very high sales levels. "This year was more a return to normal," Blades said. "Overall equipment sales finished near or above their five-year average more often than not this year."
Dan Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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