May's Large Tractor, Combine Sales Show Trust in Economy

Dan Miller
By  Dan Miller , Progressive Farmer Senior Editor
Higher large tractor sales signal faith in economy and a big move to technology. (DTN photo courtesy of John Deere)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (DTN) -- The month of May was more of the same for combine and large tractor sales, a new report of preliminary farm equipment retail sales reveals. The 'same' in this instance is good news for manufacturers, according to the May 2023 Ag Tractor and Combine report published by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM).

Sales of 4WD farm tractors were up 51.1% in May, compared to May 2022. Manufactures reported 266 4WD tractors sold last month compared to 176 large tractors sold in May 2022. It's been a similar story all year. Retail sales from January to May in 2023 are up 51.5% compared to the same sales period in 2022 (1,562 4WD tractors sold this year through May compared to 1,031 sold for the five months ending May 2022).

The industry is telling AEM a similar sales story about combines. In May, manufacturers sold 487 combines, up 54.6% over May 2022. For January through May this year, AEM reports that retail sales of combines total 2,565 units compared to 1,524 combines sold January to May 2022.

Sales of 100-plus horsepower tractors were up a healthy 9.8% in May, compared to May 2022. May extends a long-running, positive streak for tractors of this size. For January through May 2023, the industry reports that retail sales are 6.1% better than the number of 100-plus hp tractors sold during the same months of 2022.

Sales of small tractors, those less than 40 hp and those 40 to 100 hp may be showing some signs of recovery. These units were the stars of early COVID, a bright spot in the industry as small landowners set up offices at home and decided the work out their windows required a new tractor.

AEM reports that May 2023 less-than-40 hp sales compared to May 2022, are down 2.7% -- just more than 500 units makes the difference between the two months.

That's a better month-to-month number than has been reported lately, but it does not overcome a poor sales year so far. For the year, January to May 2023 compared to the same period in 2022, sales of these units are down 16% or almost 13,000 units.

May revealed a slightly better story for tractors 40 to 100 hp. May sales were up 0.9% from May 2022. But retail sales of 40 to 100 hp tractors still are off 9.4% this year to date, compared to the first five months of 2022 -- about 2,400 units.

"The trends seen here are still being informed by the pandemic-driven highs in past years, especially in the sub-40 horsepower segment that, this month, makes up nearly 70% of total unit sales volume in ag tractors," Curt Blades, AEM's senior vice president, industry sectors and product leadership, said of the report. "The continued growth in bigger units and harvesters indicate two trends. First, farmers see enough improvement in the technology to make a clear business case for this investment, and second, they feel confident that positive commodity prices will continue, allowing them to afford the expense."

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Dan Miller