Editor's note: New information from Buhler Industries has been added.
Kubota Corporation has been expanding in the farm equipment market in recent years. It’s purchases of Kverneland and Great Plains shows a commitment for greater market share. Ironically, some have observed that the current Kubota tractor line doesn’t feature a model large enough to pull some of that new equipment. Come this fall, that will change.
Kubota announced Thursday (3/14) that it had entered into an agreement to work with Buhler Industries Inc., to build a new series of tractors in a size range above the current 170-hp top end of the M7. The deal is relatively rare for tractors in the market, but has happened before. But in an email response to questions about the agreement, Martin Carrier, Product Marketing Manager, added that it is a new approach for Kubota tractors.
Buhler bought the Versatile tractor line, including higher horsepower fixed-frame machines, when New Holland merged with Case IH to form CNH in 1999. The Versatile divestiture was part of the agreement since Case IH owned the Steiger line. New Holland had purchased Versatile a few years before. In 2007, the Combine Factory Rostselmash Ltd., a major combine maker based in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, acquired 80% of the common shares of Buhler Industries.
As for the new Kubota high-horsepower line, few details were made available when the agreement was made public, though Buhler's portion of the announcement noted that it will manufacture a new tractor platform in the mid-range front-wheel assist segment. Carrier said that Kubota has provided Buhler with a list of requirements for development of the new machines and has held regular meetings to validate progression of the program. “Kubota was also involved in the selection of components to ensure the tractor looks and feels like a Kubota,” he said. “During the development process, we prioritized the ease of use and leveraged our experience with the M7.”
In its release about the new agreement, Buhler noted the machines will be built in Winnipeg, Manitoba, home to the Versatile lineup. Noted Grant Adolph, chief operating officer, Buhler Industries: "The result of this agreement is an increase in production at the factory in Winnipeg which will bring additional stability to the supply chain and emplyees. Buhler Industries is committed to continuous quality and efficiency improvements." Buhler Industries noted that development of the new platform began five years ago and production will begin immediately.
The new line will build on top of the M Series with machines above 170-hp. In the U.S. ag market, big machines in the 250 to 350 hp range are more popular as farmers seek faster operating speeds for tillage and planting. But Carrier outlined what this agreement will do: “This new product will help us achieve our goal of becoming a major global brand. Synergies between our various entities, knowledge sharing, best practices and resources will further enhance our position in the agricultural market.”
Farmers will get their first look at the new tractors in the second half of 2019 with their launch in the United States and Canada. At that time, the company will share the model lineup, horsepower ranges and key features. Added Carrier: “Know that our Kubota Product and Engineering teams have worked closely with the Buhler team to ensure the tractor will be well received by North American farmers.”