The Deutz-Fahr signs were prominent in the North Wing atrium at the National Farm Machinery Show; and in the South Wing B atrium, visitors got a gander at a range of tractors that in the past might have been relegated to a corner of one of the exhibit halls. Deutz-Fahr tractors have been sold in the United States off and on for some time, but there's a change coming.
Same-Deutz-Fahr is a global company with a small footprint in the United States, but that's about to change for its green-tractor Deutz-Fahr Brand. Australian tractor marketer Power Farming Group is coming into the United States as PFG America with a singular purpose: Market Deutz-Fahr Tractors.
"We're going to focus on one brand," says Taylor Grout, PFG America, talking during the show. "You'll only see us distribute Deutz-Fahr." And "distribute" is the operative word.
The PFG group of companies started in New Zealand in 1947 and has grown to hold what Grout says is one of the top market positions for open-field tractor sales in the Australia-New Zealand region. The company has sold more than 50,000 tractors in that market and has 18-company owned dealerships in the region as well as 300 independent dealers. And over time the firm has bolstered its distribution and support tech, which is all coming into the U.S.
The difference here is how the tractors will be sold. Usually major tractor makers sell direct to their own dealer network in what is known as a two-step process - Manufacturer to Dealer (and on to farmer). For PFG America, it will be a three-step process - Manufacturer to PFG America to Dealer (and on to farm). While this can bring added cost to the process, Grout doesn't see it that way.
"This is a family-owned company and we're dedicated to serving the market," he said. "We're bringing expertise PFG has in Australia to this country to build this brand here."
Grout is enthusiastic about the potential, and realistic about the challenges ahead. He noted that right now there are 25 dealers carrying the Deutz-Fahr brand in the United States. "We hope to double that in the next 12 months," he said, adding that the company is aiming for constant and realistic growth rather than booming into the market and not being able to offer support.
Up and running
Support is the key for any tractor maker, and dealer. "PFG has developed sophisticated tools for tracking parts inventory and meeting dealer needs and we're bringing that expertise here too," Grout said.
The company has already set up a facility in Dacula, Ga., with in-house service expertise and two dedicated training areas. There's a parts warehouse that holds more than 8,000 lines in stock. "And we want to hit a 95% fill rate for dealer parts orders," Grout said. The Georgia facility has 60,000 square feet, and there's a California parts operation with 10,000 square feet of space.
Parts support is critical and while dealers can have a fair share of parts on hand, it's not possible to have everything. In-country support for parts that can be overnighted is key, and PFG America also has air freight service available direct from the Deutz-Fahr factory in Germany.
As for 24 hour support? No problem. Grout noted that when a dealer makes a call the system may roll over to an operator in New Zealand who can also help fill the order and may be just starting the day given the time difference. "We have full support for our dealers to get them the parts they need, and our inventory system is connected globally," he said. That doesn't mean the part will come from New Zealand, but that 'down under' operator can get the order into the U.S. system for faster delivery.
Other tractor makers have tried making inroads into the U.S. market in the past decade. I challenged Grout on that score asking what makes this approach different. "We're concentrating on one brand, Deutz-Fahr, and we're focused," he noted. "And the owners of this company are committed. They know how to support dealers, and they're passionate about this business."
The Deutz name isn't unfamiliar in the U.S. The German company bought the remains of Allis-Chalmers in the 1980s but eventually relinquished the business to what became Agco. Yet the German tractor maker continues to innovate, and market plenty of machines overseas. In fact, Deutz-Fahr has more than 300,000 tractors at work in Germany alone, a competitive tractor market.
And the tractor maker recently opened a new $100-million-plus factory to build new machines. Deutz-Fahr continues to invest in technology and the tractors offered provide farmers a range of familiar tech from ISOBUS-compatible systems to CVT transmissions.
Anyone entering the U.S. market faces obstacles. The PFG Group and the Maber Family appear to be entering this market with their eyes wide open. Stay tuned.
If you want to know more about Deutz-Fahr tractors and what's available visit deutz-fahramerica.com.