Dealer’s Choice Awards
Full Line: Claas
Gold Level: John Deere, Kubota
Tractor: LS Tractor
Gold Level: Branson Tractor, Yanmar America
Shortline: Bourgault Industries
Gold Level: Landoll, MacDon, Meyer Mfg., Vermeer
The Equipment Dealers Assn. (EDA) in May released the results of its 2018 Dealer-Manufacturer Relations Survey. EDA conducts the survey annually, in which dealers rate the manufacturers whose products they carry in-store.
Claas, a new addition to the list of full-line manufacturers was ranked highest in the most categories with the highest score as well as the highest total score. Claas took 5 categories, narrowly beating out John Deere’s top ratings in 4 categories. Kubota claimed the second highest total score.
In conducting the annual Dealer-Manufacturer Relations Survey, EDA distributed the survey to dealership contacts on Feb. 7 and gave them a chance to respond until March 7. To assist in distributing the survey, 28 manufacturers provided lists of their U.S. and Canadian Dealer networks.
Equipment dealers rate up to 7 of the manufacturer lines they carry in 11 categories, such as product quality and parts availability, as well as separate rating for overall satisfaction. This year, more than 2,200 dealers participated in the survey, providing 8,800 individual ratings — that’s 4 manufacturers rated per dealer on average.
Dealers were asked to select and rate the manufacturers in each of the 12 categories on a 1-7 rating scale, where a 1 represents “extremely dissatisfied,” and a 7 represents “extremely satisfied.” Survey respondents represented all 50 U.S. states and 10 Canadian provinces.
In all, 83% of respondents were either the dealer principal/owner, general manager or a store/branch manager. Another 13% were department managers, and 5% were classified
EDA takes the survey data and organizes it by the classifications of manufacturers of full-line equipment, tractors, shortlines and outdoor power equipment.
“Our Dealer-Manufacturer Relations Survey is important for dealers and manufacturers,” says Joe Dykes, EDA’s vice president of industry relations. “Dealers can anonymously give their opinions on their manufacturers and use the resulting data to evaluate their product mix. Manufacturers on the other hand use the results to take the temperature of their dealer networks and find areas of improvement.”
TYM Takes Leap Forward
TYM is the recipient of the 2018 Dealer-Manufacturer Relations Survey’s “Most Improved” award, and for good reason.
TYM, which was named “Most Improved” manufacturer in EDA’s 2018 Dealer-Manufacturer Relations survey, improved in every survey category relative to last year. The tractor manufacturer improved in each metric by an average of 12.5%. The 11 individual categories (from top to bottom) are presented in their level of importance as determined by the dealers, followed by the “overall satisfaction” category and the average of all scores.
The tractor manufacturer saw the biggest year-over-year gain in its total score, with an increase of 6.33 points, or 12.5%, from 2017.
TYM also had the highest year-over-year increase of all other manufacturers in 4 of the 12 categories: manufacturer response to customer needs/concerns, parts quality, warranty payments and warranty procedures.
Its biggest gains came from warranty payments, increasing 27.7% from 2017, and manufacturer response to dealer needs/concerns, which jumped nearly 24.8%.
The categories where it ranked highest in the 2018 survey were parts quality, scoring 5.56; product quality, scoring 5.50; and product availability, with a score of 5.44. TYM’s lowest-performing areas were marketing and advertising support, in which it scored 4.13; warranty procedures, scoring 4.19; and manufacturer response to dealer needs/concerns, where it scored a 4.28.
TYM ranked No. 5 among the 9 tractor manufacturers surveyed, with an average score of 4.76 for all 12 categories compared with a 5.41 average for all tractor manufacturers. This is an improvement from a mean score of 4.23 in 2017. The average for all tractor manufacturers was 4.98 that year, and TYM ranked No. 8 out of the 10 included in that category.
The company also improved in its “overall satisfaction” rating between 2017 and 2018. Last year, it scored 4.91 compared to 5.22 for all tractor manufacturers, but this year it tied the category at 5.06.
“When I first started talking to TYM about taking over the leadership role in sales, they indicated that some of the problems they’ve had were because of communication issues with their dealer network. That was probably my #1 priority, trying to improve that communication with all of our dealer networks. We found out quickly that dealers want an answer to their problem as fast as possible, even if that answer is ‘No,’ and it appears to be working,” says Mark Eubanks, president of sales for TYM.
Eubanks says some of those changes were simple, such as adding phone lines to handle call volumes and hiring more qualified support staff as well as seeking out higher-quality dealers.
TYM has also worked to improve parts support.
“Being the new kid on the block and not really having any tremendous amount of sales out in the marketplace, we really didn’t know just exactly what to stock for parts. So, we’ve done some surveys and looked into it very seriously and increased our parts inventory and our service support personnel,” he says.
Eubanks admits the company has been embarrassed about some of its previous survey rankings, so he and other TYM officials were pleased to see the results of this year’s survey.
“I’d like to sit and tell you that we weren’t surprised, that we expected it, but we didn’t. It was not something that we really expected to see. That we increased in every single one of the different categories makes me feel very good,” he says.
Headquartered in South Korea and founded in 1951, TYM first introduced its line to the U.S. in 2004.
Farm Equipment analyzed survey data for all manufacturing classes, except for outdoor power equipment. A discussion on those survey results, along with more detail on tractor manufacturers, can be found in the summer edition of sister publication Rural Lifestyle Dealer.
It was largely a down year for full-line manufacturers in 2018. Of the 6 companies in that group, only one — AGCO — improved its average mean from the year prior. However, the aggregate mean improved overall by one-hundredth of one point, or 0.2%, from 2017, thanks in part to the addition of high-scoring Claas to the category.
Full-line manufacturers were rated highest by dealers in parts quality, scoring an average of 5.56; product quality, scoring 5.21; and return privileges, scoring 5.03. The criteria that the manufacturers performed the poorest in were response to dealer needs/concerns, scoring 4.21 on average; communications with management, scoring 4.65; and marketing and advertising support, with an average score of 4.68.
Claas, which had been ranking in the middle of the pack among shortline manufacturers the last few years, took home the 2018 “Dealer’s Choice” recognition from EDA in its first year under the full-line category. Claas saw tough competition from John Deere, which received the award last year, and Kubota, which had the second-highest total score among all full-line manufacturers.
The top tier has become more crowded in recent years for full-line manufacturers, with only about one-tenth of a point separating the top three in average scoring. In recognition of this competitiveness, EDA recognized both John Deere and Kubota as “Gold Level” recipients for the current year.
Overall, Claas ranked highest in product availability, product quality, product technical support, parts quality and communications with management.
John Deere rated highest in the parts availability, return privileges, warranty procedures and warranty payments. Kubota scored highest in the two remaining individual categories — manufacturer response to dealer needs/concerns and marketing and advertising support — as well as the overall satisfaction metric.
The addition of two top-performing manufacturers in the full-line category certainly has made things more difficult for John Deere to obtain the top dealer designation in the coming years. However, the company has made things easier for itself by improving on past performances.
Shawn Skaggs, president and COO of Livingston Machinery Co., Chickasha, Okla., warns that scrutinizing a certain manufacturer’s performance against others — even those that are in the same manufacturer classification — may not be an apples-to-apples comparison.
“In my opinion, you have to compare full-lines to full-lines and shortlines to shortlines, and even amongst the full-lines it’s not necessarily a fair comparison,” Skaggs says. “Whenever you look at the range of products that the different full-line manufacturers carry, you look at manufacturers like New Holland, Case IH, AGCO and Deere, those four are really full-line manufacturers all the way up to big 4WD tractors. And the majority of their dollars come from customers who are using those machines commercially. But you’ve got manufacturers like Kubota who are lumped in there with the other full-line manufacturers, and … they’re not necessarily full-line. Their product offering still stops at around 150-horsepower tractors, and most of their products are smaller. So, it’s not necessarily the same type of customer that you’re trying to satisfy, it’s not the same kind of dealer you’re trying to satisfy. And so, I think you have to take those comparisons with a grain of salt, because they’re not necessarily serving the same markets.”
Reaching back to 2014, when neither Claas nor Kubota were considered full-line manufacturers, the average scores for both were significantly higher than John Deere. Specifically, the manufacturer was nearly 0.6 points behind Claas and more than 0.8 away from Kubota in mean scoring. However, the difference between Deere and the other two essentially evened out the following year, and since then, all three companies’ average scores have varied by no more than one-fifth of a point from each other.
“[It’s a] tremendous honor for us to receive the Dealer’s Choice Award and being recognized by our dealers,” says Leif Magnusson, president of Claas Global Sales. “We could not do what we do without the strength, passion and support from our dealers tirelessly supporting farmers and ranchers in the U.S. and Canada.”
EDA officials say Claas was put into the full-line category in 2018 because it matches the group’s full-line classification of a manufacturer that produces a full complement of equipment, including combines, harvesting machines, tractors and implements.
“Since they manufacture all that equipment, based upon that definition we put them in our full-line category,” Dykes says.
John Schofield, Claas’ North American marketing coordinator, says people oftentimes associate shortline manufacturers as making only one product line, such as grain carts.
How the Survey is Used
EDA’s Dealer-Manufacturer Relations survey is a tool used by both dealers and manufacturers. For one, it provides a level of transparency for dealers to see what others think about their manufacturers.
“It’s a measuring device,” says Brian Carpenter of Champlain Valley Equipment. “You’re always wanting to know if you are being treated fairly and how your manufacturer ranks in product availability, after-sales support and things like that. And it’s one opportunity that we’ve had in recent years since they started that survey of having an independent agency collect some data and provide that feedback. It helps you understand as a dealer where the manufacturers you’re representing sit in that regard.”
Shawn Skaggs of Livingston Machinery Co. says he compares the performance of AGCO, the main product line his dealership carries, with its competitors.
“When I’m looking at a full-line like AGCO, I like to compare with the other full-line manufacturers just to see how those other dealers feel about their manufacturers, see whether we’re in the same ballpark, whether we’ve got a major problem and also to see what the perception is,” says Skaggs, who sits on AGCO’s national dealer panel. “Being on the dealer panel, I want to know how the other dealers are perceiving their relationship and the different aspects of that relationship with AGCO.”
Tim Berman, owner of Big Red’s Equipment Sales, Granbury, Texas, finds the survey useful for reasons similar to Skaggs and Carpenter. However, Berman says he sees some shortcomings for a survey that only gauges the feelings of dealers on certain categories.
Berman says he would find more use to a survey that provides information such as dealers’ profit margins or the average recovery rate on warranties. He acknowledges that this kind of information would be more difficult to gather, and that many manufacturers may not want that kind of information out there.
John Schofield of Claas notes that the full-line manufacturer uses the survey to benchmark its performance, both among competitors and itself.
“We look at progress not only as it relates to comparison with other manufacturers, but also year to year,” Schofield says. Using this data, the company looks for areas where it can improve its relationship with dealers, he adds.
“We want to keep those [relationships] secure,” he says. “Dealers are our conduit to farmers that are using our products.”
Claas uses both the EDA survey and input from a dealer council to enact new initiatives aimed at improving its relationship with dealers. Schofield points to a couple recent examples of this: The company recently expanded parts facilities in Columbus, Ind., and Regina, Sask., to better serve dealers in those areas.
AGCO similarly says it finds use in comparing its survey scores to that of other manufacturers as well as its own past performances. In fact, the information provided in the survey proved valuable enough for the company to become an EDA member in order to access the reports.
“We certainly see value in the survey and the results. We actually expanded our membership with EDA in an effort to get more information,” says Anthony Burkes, AGCO’s director of dealer development and strategy.
“In our case, we have been expanding our line of products in the last number of years,” he says, adding that the addition of tractors in recent years may have served as the “linchpin” in pushing Claas into consideration as a full-line manufacturer.
This follows the addition of Kubota as a full-line manufacturer in the 2017 edition of the survey. The company was added because of its addition of hay tools, tillage and planting equipment to its product lineup in recent years through a number of acquisitions.
Claas’ average score for all categories was 5.42, putting it slightly ahead of John Deere and Kubota. If it had remained in the shortline group, Claas would have landed at No. 16 out of 20 manufacturers.
Indeed, shortlines tend to do better on average compared with their full-line counterparts. The average score for all full-line manufacturers was 4.86, compared with the average of 5.61 for all shortlines.
For More Information
- “Additional Coverage: AGCO Continues Major Improvements in Reputation Among Dealers,” July 2018, www.Farm-Equipment.com.
- “2017 Equipment Dealers Assn. Dealer-Manufacturer Relations Survey: Few Surprises at the Top, But Changes Afoot Among the Challengers,” Mike Lessiter, July/August 2017 Farm Equipment, p. 38-56.
- “Major-Line Ratings: Report Cards Weren’t Meant to ‘Go in the Drawer,’” Mike Lessiter, Farm Equipment Daily E-WATCH Blog, June 13, 2017.
Case IH and New Holland, both owned by parent company CNH Industrial, saw mean scores of 4.08 and 4.12, respectively. The scores firmly place them at the bottom of the group in 2018, the same position both were in the year prior.
Brian Carpenter, general manager of Champlain Valley Equipment, which carries both product lines, says he had hopes both manufacturers would have fared better in this year’s survey.
“I know that New Holland has been working hard trying to do some activities that will positively impact that [survey],” says Carpenter, who serves on the company’s dealer council. “ … It doesn’t seem like it’s moving the needle much. It’s disappointing to have our main manufacturers being ranked so low pretty much across the board.”
Carpenter acknowledges that it will take some time before any manufacturers might see significant improvements to certain categories, such as product quality.
“With the rapid succession of product development that we’ve seen in the past decade, I think across the board product quality has lagged,” he says, specifically pointing to manufacturers needing to meet new emissions standards and keep up with rapidly improving technology.
“So, it’s certainly presented a challenge on the manufacturing side, but it’s presented a challenge on the dealer side when they haven’t gotten it right, too.”
Overall, tractor manufacturers fared worse this year than 2017, marking the second year in a row that the classification has done worse overall than the previous year.
The aggregate mean score for the classification was 4.84, a 2.8% decline from a year ago. This follows a 2.4% decline in 2017 vs. 2016.
Dealers rated tractor manufacturers the highest in parts quality, with a mean score of 5.53; product quality, with a score of 5.44; and product availability, scoring 5.22. The worst-rated categories for tractor manufacturers are manufacturer response to dealer needs/concerns, with an average score of 4.36; warranty procedures, with a score of 4.52; and warranty payments and communications with management, each of which scored 4.54.
South Korea-based LS Tractor was the top performing tractor manufacturer in 2018, earning the “Dealer’s Choice” recognition for the fourth year in a row.
LS Tractor scored the highest in all but 4 categories. Yanmar had the best score in 3 categories: product quality, parts availability and product technical support, all of which fall in the top four of most important categories as determined by survey respondents.
TYM, which received the “Most Improved” manufacturer designation, saw the biggest year-over-year gain in its total score, with an increase of 6.33 points, or 12.5%, from 2017. In fact, TYM had the highest increase of all other manufacturers in 4 of the 12 categories: manufacturer response to customer needs/concerns, parts quality, warranty payments and warranty procedures.
Shortline manufacturers saw the most improvement year-over-year between the 3 manufacturer classifications studied by Farm Equipment, with an improved aggregate mean of 0.7% from 2017. This follows a 3% increase from 2016-2017.
Bourgault was named the “Dealer’s Choice” recipient among shortline manufacturers. This marks the second consecutive year that Bourgault has received the title. But overall, the classification had some good performances, with Landoll, MacDon, Meyer Mfg. and Vermeer all receiving the “Gold Level” recognition.
Bourgault scored highest in 6 of the 12 categories, including in overall satisfaction and product quality, which was rated as “most important” by the dealers. Vermeer took home the best scores in 3 criteria, Degelman claimed 2 and Meyer Mfg. claimed 1.
The aggregate mean for all manufacturers has increased slightly since 2014. But when broken down by manufacturer classification, it is clear that full-line manufacturers have made the greatest improvements overall in this 5-year period. Tractor manufacturers, meanwhile, have declined slightly.
5 Year Trends
Farm Equipment has compiled EDA survey data from 2014-2018 in order to get a more complete picture in how dealers’ reputations among dealers have changed over time. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there were some ups and downs.
One way to compare how each manufacturer classification stacks up against others is to look at aggregate mean — in other words, the combined average score for each manufacturer classification on the 1-7 scale for all 12 rated categories. When looking at 5 years’ worth of data, the changes in aggregate mean varied for each classification in 2018 vs. 2014.
Full-line manufacturers scored 4.36 in aggregate mean in 2014; that average increased 11.5% to 4.86 in 2018. The aggregate mean for full-line manufacturers increased 2.8% year-over-year. The largest increase was recorded from 2014-2015, during which time the aggregate score improved by 7.1%. This can be attributed largely to big gains by John Deere, Case IH and AGCO. AGCO has continued on an upward trajectory since then, while Deere’s mean scores have varied from year to year and Case IH has seen steady declines.
Full-line manufacturers saw no change in aggregate mean between 2015 and 2016; this is the only one-year period where no growth was observed for the classification.
It’s worth noting the recent additions of Kubota and Claas to the full-line category have certainly boosted the aggregate mean over the last 2 years. The manufacturers are the two highest performers in total score for 2018. Meanwhile, the continued decline in scoring for both Case IH and New Holland dragged down the category’s performance for the year.
Shortline manufacturers also saw an increase in rating over this 5-year period, albeit a slighter one than the full-line category. The average rating for this class of manufacturers increased 5.8% from 5.30 in 2014 to 5.61 in 2018. The aggregate scores for shortliners increased by 1.5% on average annually. Similar to their full-line counterparts, shortline manufacturers saw the biggest gains between 2014 and 2015. However, the aggregate average decreased by 2.9% between 2015 and 2016.
Dedicated Coverage of the Outdoor Power Equipment Manufacturers
The Summer print edition of Rural Lifestyle Dealer will recap the Outdoor Power Equipment survey results, which included ratings of 22 different manufacturers.
Tractor manufacturers, on the other hand, saw their scores fall over the 5-year period. The aggregate mean for this classification fell from 4.95 in 2014 to 4.84 in 2018, a 2.2% decline. Tractor manufacturers saw 2 periods of growth in aggregate scoring along with 2 year-over-year decreases. The average year-over-year change came out at a 0.5% decline.
The most improved manufacturer in that 5-year period was Rhino, whose average score increased 1.07 points, or 24.4%, to 5.44 points in 2018 vs. 2014.
This improvement stands in contrast with a slight dip from its performance last year. The shortline manufacturer dropped 1.52 points, or 2.28%, in its overall score between 2017 and 2018. However, this slight year-over-year dip is the exception to Rhino’s general upward trend over the last 5 years.
The company that fell the most during this time period is McCormick, whose average score fell 0.63 points, or 13.5%. Save for 2016, the tractor manufacturer’s overall performance has been declining over the last 5 years.
In all, 13 full-line, shortline and tractor manufacturers saw their scores go up over this 5 year period, while 11 saw their scores decrease.
An 80-plus-page comprehensive report — including historical charts and data — is available to all EDA dealer members as a benefit of membership, and to the manufacturers participating in the study. Manufacturers also have the opportunity to obtain additional survey data that includes company breakouts by region, detailed statistical data and additional information. For additional information on obtaining the survey data or membership, contact Joe Dykes at JDykes@EquipmentDealer.org.