Seat time in a new machine is great for getting an idea of the features. Dealerships are working harder to bring more demonstrations into the sales process. At the 2015 Sunbelt Ag Expo, organizers ramped up what they called their "test track" program to include all three major pickup makers. An interesting wrinkle was the compact tractor demonstration area.
That's where organizers gathered up Case IH, John Deere, Kioti, Kubota, LS, Massey Ferguson, New Holland, and Yanmar, small tractors for the opportunity to drive. I spent some time in the area early on day 2 of the show to get a sense of what you can see. And the companies had representative machines from their compact lines.
This market has seen an increase in sales (especially in the under-40 hp class) this year. But there were bigger machines on hand too. In fact, Massey Ferguson had one model of their new 4700 series global tractor on hand to view. The tractor series made its debut at Sunbelt.
We talked with reps in the area and also connected with a couple farmers. One producer, who had acreage he wanted to clear trees from, was checking out larger machines to determine if they had the power to get the job done. The one-stop demo offers great insight into ride comfort, control placement and even how they handle running a loader.
In one instance, a farmer came out just to see if he could get his ample self into the seat of a compact tractor. Note that some smaller machines are not always roomy enough for our U.S.-made posteriors. The producer found a few machines that would work just fine, though the smallest of machines were not the best choice for this user.
These "test track" opportunities are growing. We had them at Farm Progress Show, and Husker Harvest Days, and it's an area we think we'll be seeing more of in the future. For Sunbelt, which had a lot of different test areas, the compact tractor area was unique to the region. This market is the hotbed of small tractor sales given the farm sizes, and the amount of livestock on hand.
And given the turnaround in the market price of livestock these days, some of these folks (who suffered as Midwest corn producers saw high prices) are getting into a buying mood. In fact, one exhibitor in the compact tractor area noted that of those that stopped by their exhibit only a couple were "tire kickers" with the rest interested in buying.
For those out there that think online buying will replace a trip to the dealership, these demos and their interest should give them pause. There's nothing like some seat time to help you solidify the right choice for your farm.