They've been quietly gaining U.S. market share for years. Now Asian tractor manufacturers are eyeing North America for a bigger piece of the small to mid-sized market. Toward that goal, two companies, Kubota and Mahindra, have chosen two very different strategies. One goes for sophistication and technology in a small package. The other offers a focus on heavy-duty frames and brute strength.
Kubota M4800SU — 43 PTO hp.
The M4800SU is the newest of the many small and mid-sized tractors that Kubota builds at its American factory in Gainesville, GA. If you take the factory tour, your guide will explain that, ever since its establishment in 1988, Kubota Manufacturing of America (KMA) has been merging the Japanese concept of Kaizan, a strict adherence to waste reduction and efficiency, with the American strengths of innovation and independent thinking.
Priced at $17,400, Kubota's 2-wd M4800SU is powered by an E-TVCS, 4-cyl., dynamically balanced diesel engine. The engine's internal dual balancers maintain a level of smooth operation that is uncommon in 4-cyl. engines. Kubota claims this is the smoothest-running engine in the industry and produces cleaner emissions without resorting to power-draining add-on equipment.
The partially synchronized transmission has eight forward and four reverse speeds. The “clutch, shift and go” configuration lets you shift from second gear, to third, and then to fourth on the go in low range, and in high range from sixth gear, into seventh, and then into eighth. If additional power is required to crest a hill, the synchronizer will automatically downshift into seventh to maintain travel efficiency.
The range/shuttle lever is also synchronized in low and reverse. The controller is located to the left of the seat.
A self-modulating PTO feature applies power automatically via a pressure-controlled hydraulic clutch, thereby reducing implement shock loads. A Cat. I and II 3-pt. hitch provides 3,300 lbs. of lift capacity 24 in. behind the lift points.
Mahindra 5500 and 6000 — 54 and 59 hp.
Maybe you haven't heard of Mahindra, but the India-based manufacturer is one of the largest tractor manufacturers in the world. Moreover, the company's footprint has been on American soil for longer than you might realize. Mahindra manufactured the World War II Willys Jeep, for example. In the 1960s, the company produced the B444 and B275 tractors in a joint venture with International Harvester. Mahindra USA was established as a Texas company in 1994.
Today, Mahindra's production lines are still rolling, and a new assembly facility in Calhoun, GA, aims to produce 6,000 tractors a year for the U.S. market. Among the newest offerings is a pair of mid-sized tractors. The 6000 4-wd is priced at $20,925, and its 2-wd cousin, the 5500, sells for $15,300. Both machines are powered by four-stroke, direct-injection, water-cooled diesel engines.
General features for each machine include a Synchro-Shuttle transmission with eight forward and two reverse gears, hydrostatic steering and a lift capacity of 3,968 lbs. The tractors put their stake in the ground as heavy-duty workhorses with sturdy frames and greater stability for handling larger implements than most tractors of their size.