Good-bye Buhler. Goodbye Genesis. Good-bye blue-plated monogram. From now on the only brand name that will appear on the tractors made in Winnipeg, Manitoba, is Versatile. Buhler Industries made the announcement at the company's dealer meeting and media event held last October at the Winnipeg Convention Center.

The re-branding effort is designed to build on the heritage and strength of the Versatile name, which is known for its red and yellow, heavy-duty farm tractors. Versatile was the first company to mass-produce the 4-wd tractor in 1966 in its tractor factory in Winnipeg, making it affordable to farmers. (Steiger was the first to build one.)

“We're embracing over 40 years of history,” says Eric Allison, director of sales for Buhler. “Every farmer knows the Versatile name. We're trying to get back in people's mind as being an independent business, separate from New Holland.”

The legal name of the tractor division will remain Buhler Versatile Inc. The Canadian company produces heavy-duty farm tractors with a capacity of 200 to 535 hp. The tractors are known for being simple, reliable, long lasting and affordable.

“Some of the old reds are still running,” Allison says.

He says the tractors built today have the same basic design as the originals, which includes planetary axles that can be easily repaired. “Whereas other manufacturers use an inboard axle, we use an outboard axle that you can get to without taking off the tires,” Allison says.

Update on buyout

The re-branding strategy comes exactly one year after Russian Combine Factory Rostselmash Ltd. bought the majority share of common stock from Canadian business mogul John Buhler. The purchase included all brands manufactured under the Buhler brand name, including Versatile tractors, Farm King grain-handling and compact implements, Allied front-end loaders, and Inland Hay tools.

Dmitry Lyubimov, Buhler Industries' new president, says buying a company with an established tractor line gave the Russian company instant entry in the tractor market, which is booming in Russia. There, the market for heavy tractors is growing at a rate of 33% annually, he says. The company has no competitor in Russia in the high-horsepower segment.

Rostselmash's sales goal is to double production in the next two years — from 1,200 in 2008 to 2,000-plus in 2010. Lyubimov says two-thirds of the company's tractors now go to the U.S., where the brand is represented by 200 dealers. Its market presence is strongest in North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Indiana. There demand remains strong for its high-horsepower 4-wds.

Director of sales Allison says the company buyout has benefited the tractor division by adding a corporate structure, which includes marketing support, a service department, and centralized booking, billing and administration.

“We are now a first-class tractor maker,” Allison says.

In addition, Versatile recently announced it now has its own finance program, giving growers access to special interest rates and lease programs.

Two new models

Along with the branding announcement, Buhler Industries unveiled two new models: the Versatile 250 and Versatile 280 front-wheel-assist tractors. The models replace the Genesis 2180 and 2210. The new numbers correspond to the engine horsepower to simplify product identification.

The tractors are powered by Tier 3 Cummins QSC 8.3-liter engines and mark the first time in two decades that the entire Versatile tractor line features Cummins engines. The new engines are designed to provide more horsepower and a better cooling package than the CNH engines being replaced.

All new Versatile models sold after November 1, 2008, will come with a new three-year/3,000-hour warranty, including the standard two-year/2,000-hour warranty and an extra one-year/1,000-hour power-train warranty that covers major components such as the engine, transmission, axles and differentials. The company claims it is one of the best warranties in the industry.

Price of the Versatile 250 is $165,000. Price of the Versatile 280 is $172,000.

Russian combines coming?

So will Rostselmash's buyout of the Canadian tractor company mean production will move to Russia? Many have asked whether the winged tractor logo will fly away to eastern shores. And might we see Russian combines on U.S. soil this year?

No, on both accounts, Lyubimov says. He states all tractors will continue to be made in the Winnipeg factory. And even though Rostselmash is the largest combine manufacturer in Russia (with 60% market share), its current units are undersized for American farms. “The largest models we produce are Class 5,” Lyubimov says. “The demand in the U.S. is for sizes much larger.”

However, he says, the company is working on up-sized versions in Classes 6, 7 and 8. As a result, brands could be seen here in as early as two years. He says the combines are known for their ease of use, reliability and ease of maintenance.

For more information about Versatile tractors, contact Buhler Versatile Inc., Dept. FIN, 1260 Clarence Ave., Winnipeg, Manitoba R3T 1T2, Canada, 888/524-1003, visit www.versatile-ag.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 101.

TIME LINE TO VERSATILE

1952

Hydraulic Engineering Company of Toronto, manufacturer of small agricultural implements, expands to tractors by opening a factory in Winnipeg.

1966

Hydraulic Engineering Company is renamed Versatile after company shares are offered to the public. It becomes the first company to mass-produce the 4-wd tractor.

1986

Ford-New Holland purchases Versatile after a depressed farm market causes the company to cease operation.

1988

The company resumes tractor operations with the Versatile name and New Holland colors.

1999

The Winnipeg factory closes and the Versatile name is dropped following New Holland's merger with Case IH.

2000

Buhler Industries Inc. acquires the Winnipeg factory and rights to the Versatile name. Tractors are marketed under the “Buhler Versatile” brand name a year later.

2007

Combine Factory Rostselmash Ltd. buys the majority share of common stock from Canadian businessman John Buhler to secure a foothold in Russia's growing tractor market.

2008

Buhler Industries renames all tractor models Versatile to draw on the brand's heritage.