Those high-quality, compact-utility, orange tractors that populate the countryside will soon have a new big brother. Kubota announced at its fall dealer meeting that it will begin production of the M7 series tractors with an engine horsepower range of 128 to 168. At the same time, Kubota introduced balers, bale wrappers and mower conditioners. It also launched a line of skid-steer loaders aimed at farmers and other groups. The new offers move the company further into the commercial ag sector, an area around which it has drawn a bull’s-eye.
“We are working on product expansion,” says Todd Stucke, vice president of Kubota’s agriculture and turf division. “Two things are driving that: a dealer group that is asking for it and a customer segment that is asking for it,” he adds.
The M7 tractors will come from a new factory nearing completion in Bierne, France. The hay tools will come from European factories of the Norwegian company, Kverneland ASA, which Kubota acquired three years ago.
Expansion strategy. That acquisition was the precursor of an expansion strategy the late Kubota president Yasuo Masumoto announced in 2012. He told journalists then that Kubota would become a full-service agricultural company, offering a range of products, to put it in direct competition with companies like John Deere, CNH and AGCO for row-crop customers. At the time, speculation was that Kubota would reach its goal through other acquisitions. That may yet be the case, but Stucke indicates Kubota intends to build rather than buy.
“If you look at Kubota’s history, that’s what we are good at,” he says. “We build things very vertically integrated. It’s part of our DNA to build our own so that it will hold up to the quality standards we establish for ourselves.”
Kubota chose to build a factory for the M7 tractors in northern France for several reasons. Top of the list was shipping logistics to those areas where Kubota envisioned the tractors would sell best. “The market opportunities for tractors of that size are greatest in Europe and North America,” Stucke says. Near the French coast, shipping logistics to the U.S. and Canada are simple.
Row-crop entry. The M7 tractors are “our mid-range, high-horsepower tractor,” Stucke says. “It’s a first step into the row-crop arena.”
The power plants for the M7s are Kubota V6108 engines, which use a bundle of technologies to meet Final Tier 4 emission standards. Selective catalytic reduction (SCR) and exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) are in there, as is a common rail system, to control timing and fuel injection. A diesel particulate filter muffler cleans up at the back end.
Transmission options for the M7s include the K-VT (Kubota Variable Transmission), a 24-speed powershift, a creeper with 16 forward speeds and 16 reverse speeds, and a 31-mph roading option.
The tractors will be available in select markets by late summer of 2015.
Stucke wants customers to know the company is not abandoning the dance partner it came with. He notes: “We are a compact-utility tractor company, and we are going to protect that segment at all costs.”
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