For those of you who are tractor geeks like I am, there was an interesting development in the last few days that you might want to know about…Bobcat is getting back in the compact tractor market! Their offerings range from a sub-compact model with 21HP to a compact utility model at 60HP.
When thinking of the Bobcat brand, most of us think of skid loaders, and they are most famous for their excellent line of small construction equipment, and not tractors. That makes the re-entry into the tractor market a little interesting.
There are a couple of problems with the move…first, Bobcat has been in the tractor market before and it didn’t work. Occasionally I’ll get an e-mail from someone who has a Bobcat tractor wanting to know where to get parts for it.
The answer leads me to the second problem with the move, the tractor appears to be a Kioti painted Bobcat colors. That’s what the older Bobcat tractors were, and the Kioti dealers are usually glad to supply parts for them. There’s not anything wrong with the Kioti product, I used to sell them, the tractors and company support are both excellent, but the economics work against Bobcat. Why buy a tractor that Kioti has sold to Bobcat to sell to their dealers, to sell to you, when you could cut Bobcat out of the loop and buy directly from a Kioti dealer?
Finally, Bobcat service is excellent for products they build, but as much as technicians hate change I wonder if they’ll embrace servicing a tractor that they don’t know anything about. I think about my dealership days and having to go tell the mechanics we were getting in to a whole new product line. That usually starts eye-rolling, which can turn into wrench throwing. (Technicians can be a sensitive lot.)
Having said those negatives, Bobcat has a lot going for it. They have a strong dealer network and good relations with rental yards and municipalities, who are generally large consumers of small tractors. That’s likely why they’re back in the market.
Is that enough to maintain a separate product line and encourage dealers to promote it? That’s a great question. If it doesn’t work, a good time to find a bargain on a compact tractor will be in 18-24 months, when the company has seen the error of their ways and the inventory is being flushed. You heard it here first.