Face it, in a soft farm economy, competition can be tough. Those that are buying are being frugal about what they pay. And of course, there are those customers that aren’t buying at all.
A press release that came across my desk recently shows that in a competitive industry interesting deals can arise. Kubota and Titan International have a new agreement that makes Kubota the exclusive OEM supplier of Goodyear R14 tires on tractors in the 30 hp and under range. The new tire, which is a kind of hybrid between an R-1 ag tread, an R-3 turf tread and an R-4 industrial tread, has potential for a wider part of the market, but Titan knows an opportunity when it sees one.
“Although we’ve had a strong relationship with Kubota for years, to be honest, Titan has not been a major player in the smaller sub-compact classes of tractors up until this point,” says Scott Sloan, ag product manager, Titan. “We saw the market and knew that because Kubota has such a strong name in the market, for us this agreement would give us a leg up in this segment.”
For Kubota, it can be a competitive advantage, having exclusive rights to the Goodyear R14 tire for that smaller segment. “We wanted to be the only ones to offer that tire for that segment,” says Stephen Barcuch, product marketing director, Kubota. “When the R-4 tire entered the market around the turn of the century it changed the landscape of the compact tractor business. We see the R14 being fairly significant; it can be a game changer.”
One look at the Goodyear R14 tire, which is currently available in sizes up to those that work with 150-hp tractors, and you can see there’s a hybrid look about the machine. Sloan explains that the R14 designation, which started as a code name, is a merging of R-1 (for ag) and R-4 (more for industrial). The company is looking at the design for a wider range of uses on even bigger equipment, Sloan adds.
Sloan comments that when you buy a tractor, you specify the tires. And changing to other tires for different applications can be costly. “When someone calls us and asks about switching from R-1 to R-4, we tell them you’re buying both tires and wheels. They usually hang up,” he says.
For tires you essentially have three choices, ag (R-1), turf (R-3) or industrial (R-4). “We’ve come up with a hybrid tire, able to make the point-of-sale decision easier, and a higher chance of hitting the customer’s need in two of three categories,” he says.
The challenge with a straight R-4 tire in some conditions, though it can offer a smooth road ride, is that in muddier conditions the tread can fill in and limit traction. Not good with tires. The R-1, however, can be rough on the road, but give you great traction. The key was combining the two.
Sloan explains that the R14 has the MXL industrial center that’s part of the company’s loader tire, the shoulder of an R-1, and the Goodyear Optitrac lug angle for the “ag” part of the tire. “I think we’ve hit a sweet spot on traction in harder surfaces, and softer soils,” Sloan says.
For Kubota to enter into the agreement, the company had to know the R14 was going to perform. “We completed our own tests of the tire,” adds Kubota’s Barcuch. He notes the company tested the tires for traction and vibration, and he’s confident about the customer’s reaction.
“Once they see the benefit of this design, a large portion of our customers will go that route,” he adds.
Those Kubota customers can check out the tire now for the under-30 hp line which includes the company’s B01 Series models. Buyers can still opt for the R1, R3 or R4 tires too as options.
Agreements like this can create a win-win for both parties. For Kubota, Barcuch is positive about associating the Titan/Goodyear name with the tractor line. And as Sloan says, this deal gets Titan more access to a market segment where it has not been a big player in the past. Kubota may also be looking at expanding the tire choices in the deal for the future, that remains to be seen.
As for other R14 sizes for bigger machines? Best bet is to connect with your Titan dealer to learn more. The R14 is another example of tire innovation we’re seeing in the market. If you want specifics about the new hybrid treat tire, visit titan-intl.com/R14T.