Kubota to produce tractors up to 200hp

< Above is a mocked up picture by FG of what a 200hp Kubota might look like. Could this be a sight at this year’s Agritechnica? >

FOLLOWING the introduction of 135hp tractors to its portfolio, Kubota now has its sights firmly fixed on 200hp machines.

How it will achieve this still remains a mystery, but one thing is for sure, the Japanese maker is not short of ambition stating it wants to go toe to toe with John Deere in the future.

The firm says it has no definite timing for a six-cylinder engine, hinting it could produce one in the next two to three years. Even if it does not, it is quite conceivable it will produce a 200hp tractor using a four-cylinder – just look at Agco who is getting nearly 190hp out of four pots.

In any case, Kubota is likely holding off the release of more powerful engines until engine emissions regulations reach Stage 4. That way, the manufacturer will not have to make costly adaptations from Stage 3b to Stage 4.

It says to meet Stage 4 emissions, it is looking to selective catalytic reduction using AdBlue.

Also in the pipeline are developments of a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Again though, it says we are unlikely to see anything for another two to three years.

What the firm can reveal though, is it would prefer to develop its own tractor, at least up to 200hp, rather than have to buy an already existing manufacturer. Rumours were rife last year of possible acquisitions by Kubota with names such as Same Deutz-Fahr, Agri Argo, Claas and CNH banded around. However, these rumours were quickly quashed by the respective manufacturers.

Kubota has not ruled out buying a tractor manufacturer to extend its product line, especially above 200hp.

Kubota’s executive vice-president Tetsuji Tomita says: “We are always looking at potential acquisitions and we would take the opportunity if the right deal presented itself.”

Currently, most of Kubota’s tractors are built in Japan. However, as its product range grows in size and power, it is considering moving production outside of its homeland, where only small tractors are popular, to regions where new more powerful tractors will have more of an appeal, for example Europe.

Mr Tomita says: “Local tractors for local markets.”

A major challenge for UK dealers, especially dual franchise dealers with more than one make of tractor sold, is conflict of products.

Adrian Langmead, Kubota UK’s business development manager, says: “As Kubota tractors get larger, some dealers are finding themselves in a difficult position with other manufacturers and are having to choose which brand they get rid of.”

So far, more than 3,000 M-series tractors have been sold in Europe, with ambitions to sell 10,000 by 2018.

Following its acquisition of the Kverneland Group last year, Kubota says it does have plans to offer Kverneland equipment in orange livery. However, this is unlikely to be anywhere in Europe, but more likely in markets where perhaps the Kverneland brand is not as strong and where Kubota will use its position to promote the brand.

For now, Mr Tomita says Kubota is going to respect existing sales channels, selling Kubota through Kubota dealers and likewise with Kverneland.

IsoBus technology, whereby implements are controlled and set up from a tractor’s terminal, is definitely an area being explored by the manufacturer, which makes sense as a lot of Kverneland products are IsoBus compatible. However, do not expect to see this until the new ‘big’ tractors are revealed.

Finally, and intriguingly, Kubota has plans for entry-level combines to be sold in Europe for only £60,000. It currently makes small rice harvesters, which it says it can adapt and scale up to harvest cereals. It could be a very tempting machine for small farms wanting to take harvesting control.

Kubota history

  • 1890: Established foundry and started production of cast iron water pipes
  • 1922: Started production of oil-based engines for agriculture
  • 1947: Developed a cultivator for use in rice fields
  • 1959: Started production of spiral welded steel pipes
  • 1960: Developed its first commercial tractor
  • 1968: Started production of rice planters
  • 1969: Began making combines
  • 1974: Started production of mini diggers
  • 2004: Entered the utility vehicle business

James Rickard’s predictions on the future of Kubota

READING between the lines, I would say Kubota will produce its own tractors up to 200hp. Above this is anyone’s guess, but if it went down the acquisition route, it would not be foolish to say the firm would need a manufacturer with a product line-up to complement Kubota’s (tractors over 200hp).

I also think its tractors up to 200hp will be made in Europe and use a ZF transmission. For its IsoBus terminal, it makes sense to turn to Kverneland and use its Tellus terminal.

I would also go as far as to say Kubota will have a prototype at this year’s Agritechnica show with a production version launched at the following Agritechnica two years later.

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