Five years ago, multi-brand machinery maker AGCO Corporation shifted strategy by focusing less on company acquisitions and more on product development. The company wanted to consolidate its rainbow of 21 different brands and market products in North America under three cornerstone distribution networks: AGCO dealers, Challenger dealers, and Massey Ferguson dealers.

The first products streamlined under this new plan were the Challenger 4-wd tractors, axial and transverse-rotor combines, and large square balers. This year, high-horsepower row-crop tractors took their turn with the launch of the Challenger MT600C, AGCO DT, and Massey Ferguson 8600 series tractors, which range from 205 to 275 PTO hp.

“This company we call AGCO is for real,” said company CEO Martin Richenhagen, when he spoke to more than 2,000 dealers at the 2009 AGCO Tractor Launch Event. “We are high-tech solutions for professional farmers feeding the world. These new tractors are the best in North America. You can't buy a better tractor in its class.”

Hybrid lines

A total of 12 new models, four in each line, were unveiled at the AGCO event, making it the company's largest product launch in North America. The event was so large that AGCO rented the Georgia Dome to hold it. Dealers and journalists were invited. A week later, the public saw the same tractors at the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, KY, and the World Ag Expo in Tulare, CA.

All three lines are built on a common platform and share the same engine, transmission and cab frame. But their styling and base configurations vary to meet the needs of the different market segments in North America.

Product developers say it is the first series of AGCO tractors that North American dealers can truly call their own. The series incorporates all the best features from its other family of brands, including the continuously variable transmission (CVT) from Fendt, the advanced diagnostics and machine-user interface built into Challenger MT tracked tractors, and engine technology from the AGCO Sisu Power engine plant. But it improves upon them to meet the needs of the North American farmer.

“We spent a lot of time understanding what North American farmers want out of a tractor,” says Doug Griffin, vice president of marketing for AGCO North America. “And one of biggest things growers said they wanted is a great operator environment. Second, they wanted an efficient tractor that puts power to ground using the least amount of fuel as possible. So we attacked those two areas.”

Industry-leading features

Product marketing manager Jason Hoult says the new tractors provide more comfort, productivity and reliability than any other tractors in their class. Here are just a few of the features he claims are industry-leading:

Bigger cab. “The first thing you'll notice is the cab,” Hoult says. It is 28% larger than the cab of the former series and a full 65 in. wide, making it the largest in its class, Hoult claims. “You can reach out your arms to both sides and not touch the glass,” he says. More than 67 sq. ft. of glass provide 360° visibility and an unobstructed line of sight to crop rows.

Cab suspension. Cab suspension was added to these tractors to provide a 25% improvement in ride over cabs with no suspension. This was done through the use of hydraulics. Customers can upgrade to a reactive hydraulic system to improve ride by 50%.

Ergonomic controls. Like the cab in previous AGCO tractors, the new cab is designed to have a dashboard with gauges, which customers like, Hoult says. But now, the dash tilts and telescopes with the steering wheel so the driver can pull both dash and wheel forward to more easily see the gauges.

CVT with “smart technology.” A CVT from Fendt comes standard on all models to maintain optimum engine speeds without the driver needing to shift gears. A new “power management” feature automatically determines the optimum engine speed and gear ratio for the load so the driver doesn't have to preprogram the settings.

Increased lift capacity. The tractors feature an optional factory-installed front hitch and also increased lift capacity on the rear hitch. “As farmers have gotten larger implements, we now provide over 22,000 lbs. lift capacity, which is 4,000 lbs. more than before,” Hoult says. “Some competitors are standard at 13,000 lbs.”

e3 emissions technology. Finally, the new series of tractors is the first to offer new emissions technology called Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) to meet the clean air standards set by the EPA. (See “Reinventing the engine,” August 2009.)

Critical segment

The new tractors provide more horsepower than the previous models. The range goes up to 275 PTO hp and 350 max engine hp with a 52% rise in torque. The tractors provide a power bulge of 15%.

Offering tractors in this size class is key to the company's plans to build share in the Midwest market. “Five years ago we started looking at a strategy to become a much bigger player in the professional producer segment of North America,” AGCO's Griffin says. “And one of first things we identified that we had to be successful in was high-horsepower row-crop tractors.”

Hoult says the high-horsepower row-crop tractor segment was up more than 30% in 2008. “And it is because it is the main tractor on the farm,” he says. “A lot of farmers make their other equipment decisions based on the purchase of it. It is the price of admission here in the Midwest.

“Customers continue to move up the horsepower chain,” Hoult continues. “It used to be that 200 PTO hp was the barrier for row-crop tractors. Then we broke through that and moved to 225 PTO hp. Now we're all the way up to 275 PTO hp with this new series.”

The higher ranges allow customers to pull bigger planters, sprayers and tillage tools to become more efficient. “They can switch from an 8-row to a 12-row planter or size up to a 35-ft. disk to become more efficient,” Hoult says. “They will handle the larger, 1,000-bu. grain carts as well.”

The tractors are in production now and will be available in the U.S. for spring planting. Suggested list prices range from $190,000 for the lowest-horsepower, base model configuration to $250,000 for the fully loaded, highest-horsepower models.

Contact AGCO Corp., Dept. FIN, 4205 River Green Pkwy., Duluth, GA 30096, 800/767-3221, or visit www.freeproductinfo.net/fin.