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Tractors that have a high level of automation score well
on these criteria. The use of telemetry, so that there is a
constant record of important productivity figures, is another
important aspect of tractor technology for farmers now,
especially where the IT system can interact and collaborate
with other farm software packages. It's not a lot different
from a dairy farm or any other business. There is now an
expectation that this level of electronic sophistication is
readily available if required. It is expected that the tractor
can be an integral part of your business unit and part of the
farm business decision-making process. When a farmer
hooks up to a drill, he/she wants to be able to download
information from the combine or sprayer. AGCO now has
`Fuse Technologies' across our tractor ranges, including
Massey Ferguson. That exemplifies a lot of what we want
to highlight within the brand in the future and it's what our
customers are ultimately looking for, particularly in the
arable sector."
Horsepower at giddy heights
One constant in tractor sales is the ongoing rise in
horsepower. Where once the sub-100hp tractor accounted
for the majority of tractor sales, that is no longer the case,
as William points out: "If you break down the horsepower
segments in Ireland, the biggest segment is in the 81-
120hp category. Out of 1,760 new tractors sold on the
Irish market, about 700 of them would be within that
broad category. However, there has been an increasing
demand for higher-horsepower tractors, in the 180-200hp
and higher categories. Demand has really increased
significantly for those higher-powered units. So the
average horsepower is constantly moving up and that will
continue to be the case as people need to get more work
done more quickly.
Looking forward
As with all companies making sales forecasts and plans for
2018, William recognises that there is opportunity in the
dairy sector because of the ongoing expansion in output
post quotas: "There has been a decline in the number of
farmers investing in their arable enterprises, on account
of ongoing low grain prices, while there are new entrants
into dairying as well as continuing growth in dairy herds.
And that has to be serviced by increased mechanisation
including the use of tractors."
Brand ambassadors have increasingly been deployed by
car brands and Bord Bia-driven food promotion. Massey
Ferguson has adopted a similar strategy by appointing
farmer and international rugby player Sean O'Brien as its
brand ambassador for 2018. William believes the `Tullow
Tank' has much to offer: "He provides us with a valuable
link through his farming and sporting achievements to
the farming community. Sean is a popular figure and also
recognised as a straight-talker, so that should tally well
with farmers who like to get the message straight and clear.
He is approachable and well-liked and recognised in his
community, so he is a good brand ambassador for Massey
Ferguson for any number of reasons. He was involved with
us at the Ploughing Championships last year and enjoyed
high levels of recognition both as a farmer and sports star."
Tractor purchasing priorities
The uneasy relationship between the euro and sterling is a
constant business factor for AGCO and Massey: "Currency
can have an impact, especially where AGCO is building in
Europe and shipping to the UK. A small movement can
have a big impact. But it has to be said that farmers are now
more focused on finance and warranty than purely on price.
"There was a time when currency fluctuations impacted
on tractor sales and steered people towards second-hand
units. That's less the case now than previously. The local
dealership is important to tractor buyers. A tractor is a big
investment and farmers know that they need a reliable
back-up service from a local dealership. Otherwise, they risk
a lot of downtime if there is a problem."
Brexit strategies
While there is still no clear road ahead as regards Brexit,
AGCO has been examining a number of potential scenarios:
"We have economists and marketing people looking at the
industry. In the UK, tractor sales rose by almost 6 per cent
last year. That could, potentially, drop by 20 per cent post-
Brexit, depending on the outcome and whether it impacts
negatively on the UK agri sector.
"Any border between the EU and Britain could have
all kinds of unknown and unknowable impacts on the
tractor market. We have taken the conservative attitude of
forecasting flat growth trajectory, with contingency plans
in the background to take account of a number of possible
outcomes, some of them, we hope, positive."
William looks to have an interesting time ahead as sales
manager for Massey Ferguson Ireland and the UK.
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