In June, AGCO invited several machinery editors to its Jackson, Minnesota assembly plant to hear its news for the coming year. I was included in that group. As we were seated around a large table listening to the initial presentations, AGCO’s media relations manager made an off-the-cuff comment that stuck in my mind. “It’s the year of Fendt,” she said.
The bulk of the company’s marketing efforts in the last several months have been focused on its Fendt brand, even here in North America. This becomes an even more significant statement when you consider there are two other major marquees in the mix.
In Canada, until now, Challenger and Massey Ferguson have been by far the bigger tickets in the AGCO product stable.
The new Fendt focus is the result of an evolving plan that puts the brand squarely at the corporate core, and it may be paying big dividends. We may even see the status quo get turned upside down.
Speaking at another press conference held at the Fendt headquarters in Marktoberdorf, Germany, which was live-streamed online a few days later, Peter-Josef Paffin, vice-president and chairman of the managing board of AGCO/Fendt, noted, “We at AGCO Fendt are moving against the market.”
Paffin was referring to the fact AGCO’s green brand is outgrowing the overall global market. And he has has no plans let that slide.
“Our business model will be expanded in the future,” he went on to say. Building on that growth will almost certainly mean the company introduces additional equipment lines wearing the Fendt name to give the brand a true full-liner status, which has become an essential element for any brand seeking world domination.
Not surprisingly, Paffin believes this is key to continuing to drive sales numbers and market share even higher. “We need a full equipment portfolio,” he explained. “With only tractors and combines, growth is limited… you lose professional dealers.”
In the future, as Paffin sees it, “professionalism” in all aspects including equipment and the dealers that supply it will be the prime element buyers look for. “The market (read farmers) will be looking for more professionalism,” he added. So AGCO’s goal is to build the Fendt brand into an icon of technically superior equipment that delivers maximum efficiency and is supported by high-quality dealers.
During the same online press conference there were even more clues that the Fendt machinery line will grow. “Our full line could get even fuller,” said Rob Smith, senior vice-president and general manager EME (Europe and the Middle East) in a not-so-subtle hint.
But given that Smith’s focus is on markets far away and Fendt’s history is as a brand with its eyes firmly on the European market, will those additional products come to North America too? That question was answered in part back in Jackson.
“Fendt is one of those gems that we’re really just starting to explore here in the North American market,” Andrew Sunderman, tactical marketing manager for Canada and the U.S., told our group of machinery editors.
Selling 900-series in Canada
“In 2018 we expanded the Fendt product line in North America, providing solutions for professional farmers with the introduction of the Fendt Ideal combine,” he went on. “Today we’re going to talk about the 900 Series Gen 6 (tractor), which I promise is going to change the way Fendt is viewed in North America, and it really provides Fendt with a tractor that will be the ultimate in the row crop industry.”
The introduction of the 900 Series that day was telling. In the past, Fendt tractor offerings in the mid-horsepower range lacked some things, like the proper track width spacing for corn and soybean growers in the U.S. Midwest to take a real interest in them. That shortcoming has been addressed, and the new 900 Series models offer features that not only fill in the horsepower gap that had existed in the brand’s lineup, they now offer features that make them a premium product.
“With Fendt we really work hard to take a look at what are the problems that our customers in the industry are seeing, and how can we provide an innovative solution that meets those challenges,” Sunderman went on. “So we really work hard to take a holistic picture and provide a solution that provides a better return on investment than anything they might have dreamed of before.”
Along with that, marketing reps here are emphasizing the reputation Fendt has earned in Europe as a quality machine.
“What really makes this tractor different is our focus on quality,” Sunderman continued. “We focus on quality as it comes out of the factory and also on quality when it’s in the field, keeping customers running longer in the field than anyone else.”
New line of Ideal combines
In the press conference live-streamed from Germany, brand executives made another machine announcement that will interest Canadian growers. Fendt is expanding the line of Ideal combines it launched here last year. The Ideal 10 will not only offer a 20 per cent capacity jump over the 9 that had been the flagship model, it also offers even more updates, such as a steer-by-wire joystick control similar to the “stick” in a fighter jet that replaces the traditional steering wheel.
“As we continue to work with the Fendt brand here in North America, we’ve set a strong strategy,” said Sunderman. “They can be broken down into five brand values, which are excellence, efficiency, passion, quality and reliability. It not only talks about what we expect from our products, but how we as the Fendt team work. You can say these are the five pillars of what it means to be part of the Fendt team in North America.”
A core part of that strategy is the Gold Star Fendt customer care program, which provides a three-year, 3,000-hour warranty and service package for tractors, and a three-year, 1,200-hour package for the Ideal combines. But it’s more than a warranty; it also includes dealer-backed full maintenance, including oils, filters, belts and other items in the general maintenance plan. The brand is pushing the idea that all these features, backed up with the warranty and customer care program, will keep the machines running in the field longer and also reduce the total cost of ownership for customers while simultaneously delivering a high-end, premium machine
The 3,000-hour plan
“The only thing a customer needs to pay for in the first 3,000 hours is fuel and to put somebody in the seat to drive it,” said Sunderman.
“On the 900 Series you can see Fendt tractors are purpose-built for the North American market. We’ve really taken a look at what our North American customers require, as well as what are the ways we can meet their needs in ways that haven’t been met before.”
At the introduction of the Ideal combine at Agritechnica in Germany in 2017, the fact the platform was built to service the needs of a global market was a key talking point for marketers, who wanted to point out the brand was moving to capture interest well beyond its prime marketplace in Western Europe. Now, with the 900 being described as “purpose-built” for Canadian and U.S. farmers, it seems clear AGCO is intent on making Fendt its flagship brand and presenting it to the world.
All this should now completely dispel the notion that Fendt remains a brand focused on Europe.
And just in case that fact wasn’t obvious enough. AGCO spelled it out in a sign adjacent to speakers at the online press conference: “Wir Wachsen Weiter,” it read in German. Translation: “We continue to grow.”