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Equipment Roundup: Kioti's Banner Year, New Challenger, New Deere Offer

Dan Miller
By  Dan Miller , Progressive Farmer Senior Editor
Challenger MT800 series are powered by MAN engines with up to 673 hp. (Photo courtesy of AGCO)

In this Equipment Roundup, DTN/Progressive Farmer interviews Kioti Tractor staff about the company's banner year in 2020 and outlook, looks at AGCO adding the MT800 Series tracked tractor to its Challenger lineup, and reports John Deere entering a distribution agreement with Smart Guided System.

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Kioti Tractor had a banner year in 2020, despite deep uncertainties in the early days of COVID-19. The compact and subcompact tractor manufacturer announced to its more than 450 independently-owned dealers that it will begin to ship in the second quarter of 2021 a new tractor line and will for the first time in 2022, enter the construction market with skid steer and compact track loaders. Kioti also told dealers that it will continue to expand its offerings in the company's relatively new turf care line of zero-turn mowers.

Kioti Tractor is the trade name for Daedong tractors in North America and Europe. Parent company, Daedong Industrial Company, Ltd. is based in Daegu, South Korea. Kioti Tractor markets more than 40 different tractor models in the United States and Canada, ranging from 22 to 110 horsepower, zero turn mowers, utility vehicles, and attachments and implements.

This interview below was conducted by Progressive Farmer staff recently with Director of Strategic Sales and Marketing Greg Bibee, National Sales Manager Tim Phillips, and Product Development Manager Joel Hicks.

PF: Greg, how is 2020 playing out for Kioti?

Greg Bibee: Obviously it's been tough for everybody. We got off to a good start in January and February and then the world stood still for the last half of March. We worked hard to understand what was going on, and frankly we couldn't. At one time we were trying to track closings, restrictions, things like that. We gave up after a few days. It was just happening so fast. We could have curled up in the corner and let it happen to us or we were going to give it our best shot and press forward. Beginning about mid-April, things started to turn around and we've had a record year ever since.

PF: U.S. sales numbers for 100 horsepower tractors have been phenomenal this year. What's been the experience at Kioti?

Bibee: You've seen industry growth (in those tractor lines) of 15 or 16% this year. We've significantly outpaced those numbers. Forty and 50 horsepower (tractors) have been the hotspot for us.

PF: Tim, tell us about Kioti's new NS tractor.

Tim Phillips: The NS will be introduced as a ROPs model in 45-, 50- and 58-horsepower offerings. This product is very similar to our NX series that's been in our lineup for some time. The difference with the NS is it will eliminate some of the electronic features available in the NX like electronic cruise control and electronic PTO. It will be a more mechanical version which will have some cost reduction (to the customer). For the customer who finds some of the (NX electronic features) not important, they can still have a tractor with the same horsepower and the same capabilities.

PF: You've mentioned how important your dealerships are to Kioti. How did they navigate 2020?

Phillips: One of the major shifts for dealers was use of social media. We noticed early on that the dealers that were successful in the last couple weeks of March and the first couple weeks of April were guys active on social media. People were stuck at home and on their laptops. They were very engaged in social media. That was the big difference on how sales took off for us early on.

PF: Why has Kioti announced its intention to enter the construction market?

Bibee: We look at what our dealers are asking for, what customers they serve and the gaps in our products. It started with our dealers asking for this product. That tells us that they are getting that request from their customers. As we looked at our capabilities from a design and engineering and manufacturing perspective, we find we have this capability. The machine itself, the engine, most of the main components are KIOTI or Daedong products. We have a strong history in diesel engines and the tractor markets. In the past year we took that expertise over to turf care and we are going to do the same with construction.

PF: Joel, how do compact loaders fit into Kioti's plans?

Joel Hicks: That product fits such a wide variety of applications from agriculture, to construction to municipalities. The product we will bring to market fits into a large portion of those markets. Coming in at 75-hp range (for this equipment) represents a big portion of the market. It gives us a good entry point and we can continue to expand from there.

PF: What is Kioti's outlook for the next several years?

Bibee: You will see us continue to expand our turf care offering -- we have a healthy road map there -- obviously compact tractors are our bread and butter. You'll see us take a leadership position with our compact tractors. Our brand awareness and recognition is going to continue to grow. You'll see us deliver that initial construction offering and expand on that line.

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AGCO INTRODUCES NEW CHALLENGER

AGCO has added the MT800 Series tracked tractor to its Challenger lineup.

Producers can choose from among four models in the MT800 Series, all of which run on the MAN engine. The MT851 (511 HP), MT856 (564 HP) and MT862 (618 HP) are powered by MAN 15.2-liter, six-cylinder diesel engines. The MT867 (673 HP) is equipped with a MAN 16.2-liter six-cylinder diesel engine. AccuDrive allows for an engine speed range of 1,000 to 1,700 rpm, providing maximum torque from 1,100 to 1,450 rpm.

The Challenger Accu-VT continuously variable transmission (CVT) can achieve ground speed from 65 feet per hour to as much as 25 mph, all at reduced engine speed. The Tractor Management System (TMS) automatically controls engine speed and transmission ratio to ensure constant ground speed.

The MT800 Series offers a suspended undercarriage and the widest offering of track belt choices on the market. The longer wheelbase provides ideal track-to-ground contact, improving flotation and minimizing soil disturbance and compaction while also maximizing power transfer, AGCO said.

Sitting atop the chassis is the all-new MT800 Series cab. Customers can choose from either the standard suspension of four-point shock absorbers with rubber elements or the two-point cab suspension, a first among conventional track tractors.

Multiple rear hitch systems are available. A Category 5 fixed drawbar with an 11,000-pound vertical load rating is standard. Operators may also choose a wide-swinging roller drawbar with 11,000-lb load rating or a hydraulic-controlled drawbar with 15,000-lb load rating. These options offer 28 degrees of horizontal swing both left and right, so the tractor can turn more smoothly while under load, reducing fuel use and improving operator comfort.

AGCO offers a steerable three-point hitch for the MT800. This feature allows the MT800 Series to make headland turns closer to the center point of wide implements when under high draft loads. Standard (15,000-lb lift capacity) and high-capacity (20,000-lb lift capacity) hitches are available. Each also includes a Category 5 free-swinging drawbar with 15,000-lb vertical load rating. With the drawbar unpinned and the hitch allowed to swing, the combination can achieve 23.5 degrees of horizontal swing both left and right.

Challenger MT800 Series tractors will be available in 2021, with a two-year or 2,000-hour limited warranty. For more information: visit the Challenger showroom at https://agcovirtualshowroom.com/…, or www.challenger-ag.us.

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DEERE, SMART GUIDED SYSTEMS PEN JOINT-DISTRIBUTION AGREEMENT

John Deere has entered into a distribution agreement with Smart Guided Systems to sell and support its Smart-Apply Intelligent Control System through the John Deere dealer channel in the U.S., Canada, and Australia.

Through this agreement, John Deere dealers will sell and service the Smart-Apply Intelligent Control System which uses Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) and is compatible with John Deere tractors used in high value crop applications (fruit and tree nut orchards, nurseries, and vineyards).

The Smart-Apply Intelligent Spray Control System is an add-on kit for air-blast sprayers that are towed behind a John Deere tractor. Smart-Apply can reduce the potential for chemical drift and help decrease the amount of product being applied.

Dan Miller can be reached at dan.miller@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @DMillerPF

Dan Miller