Now is a pretty good time to be a New Holland dealer or to become one, according to Abe Hughes, vice president of New Holland, North America. Not only are his company's current dealers doing well, Hughes says, New Holland is actively recruiting a few new faces. That is in contrast to some other major farm equipment manufacturers who feel that consolidation of dealerships is a better strategy in the current environment. They want fewer, not more dealers.
One thing is for sure: Times have changed for New Holland. Just two years ago, New Holland invited a group of ag media folks to its Pennsylvania headquarters to talk about the planned rejuvenation of a proud old company that had been in the doldrums. Hughes told us at the time that New Holland was in the midst of a reawakening. Seems he was right. Since 2010, New Holland's revenues have doubled. Part of those big numbers is due to the construction division being folded into the agriculture segment's network and management structure. But there is no doubt that the brand as a whole is moving forward.
To emphasize that fact, New Holland recently again invited the ag media to Pennsylvania. The reason this time was to preview 25 new products that will be officially unveiled later this month at the Farm Progress Show. On a deeper level, the meeting was to update us on the brand's progress and to talk about the future. Once again, Hughes was the main speaker.
First, he put his company into an industry perspective: "We know we are not number one. And our aspiration is not to be the biggest. In the North American market, our aspiration is to be the best at what we do."
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What New Holland does is serve three market segments: livestock, hay and forage; cash crops; and pro work tools, which include tractors, mowers, front loaders and other equipment for construction contractors, small farmers and municipalities.
Because New Holland has put eggs in three baskets, it is somewhat protected from the fall off in equipment sales that has been caused by a drop in cash grain prices. The livestock sector, for instance, is doing quite well, thank you.
As a result, "I believe New Holland is going to be a very nice stable ship in this storm," Hughes said.
That positive feeling seems to have engendered a certain amount of aggressive thinking at New Holland. "New Holland, probably more than any other ag brand, right now is in the expansion mode, and we are looking to grow our dealers," Hughes said. "We are bucking the trend -- and this is really important -- I am not announcing consolidation of dealers as others have done."
New Holland is planning an advertising campaign to attract new dealers in "key areas" Hughes said. (He mentioned specifically North and South Dakota.) He is looking for entrepreneurs who see the ag equipment industry as a growth opportunity. He is looking both for people to open new dealerships and to take the place of dealers on the cusp of retirement. He is also looking for dealers who will expand existing dealerships into more than one market segment. For instance, New Holland would love to see a dealer, who currently features only hay and livestock equipment, also embrace the larger machines -- combines and high horsepower tractors -- that are dear to the hearts of cash grain operations.
The New Holland dealer of the future will be local but not necessarily small, Hughes said.
Not just anyone will do. "We want [dealers] to have a community link; we want to have people who are on the school board, people who go to the local church, people who have been involved in the community," Hughes said
In the end, "We want to get back to our shortliner roots where there are real relationships and real authenticity ... We think that is how our farmers like to do business."
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