Pictured Above: Dealership representatives Ty Rankin (l), Lonestar Ag, and Jason Connelly, Butler Machinery, shared experiences about European manufacturers’ place in their product lineup during a 3-hour bus ride on the Agritechnica & Claas plant tour trip that both attended in November 2019.
Jason Connelly, Butler Machinery (14 stores in the Dakotas and Nebraska), carrying AGCO brands, Caterpillar, Claas and Horsch
Ty Rankin, Lonestar Ag (2 stores in Texas), carrying Kubota, Claas, MacDon, JCB and Oxbo, previously known as Parmer County Implement
Jason Connelly: We at Butler Machinery have handled European lines for quite a while. We’ve got Fendt and Claas, and we have Horsch seeding and tillage lines. It was Horsch Anderson back then; that’s how log we’ve been with them. What European lines does Lonestar Ag carry?
Ty Rankin: We’ve got Claas products, including the new tractor. We also handle JCB, which is built in the UK.
Connelly: Getting started with the European products early was a big advantage for us. It’s hard to get into that market first. Some people are excited to get into it, when they read or see it on the internet. With us being involved with them already, when they bring new lines over or other companies do, they already know our name and reputation. They already know that we’re involved with Horsch or the Claas, they already know the names that are over here. I think it’s helped dramatically.
Rankin: I’d agree with that. The acceptance of the European lines is also pretty regional. Look at Canada. They’re more European-minded, and sales of those European tractors can take off. It seems like the farther south you go, the more hardcore some guys are in relation to Case IH and Deere. So it’s a bigger challenge to sell them something that they don’t really know. You may do a successful demo for them and outperform your competition. But at the end of the day they still might say, “Grandpa ran John Deere or Grandpa ran Case IH. We’re going to stick with that.”
You run across that. Some you probably just won’t win over. But never say never. When I was in Claas and we did demos to some guys a half a dozen times over 10 years, but finally got them. So repetition helps. This is a relationship business. They buy from friends. They don’t buy from strangers.
Connelly: Management also make a big difference in how and when we take on new lines. With Butler, we’re open to it, but there’s got to be a need. We won’t take a line just because it’s out there. It must fill a specific need in our area. That gets harder as there’s more brands out there wanting to come to the U.S.
“Some you probably just won’t win over. But we did demos to some guys a half a dozen times over 10 years, but finally got them…”
Rankin: Yeah. Another interesting part about this is when you compare somebody the size and the scope of Butler compared to what we do; it’s a night and day difference. Our owner and I, and everybody for that matter, wear a lot of different hats. That’s the way a small dealership is. When we look at new products, we must ultimately ask “How much more can we service? What will our existing facilities absorb and what other equipment as far as infrastructure would it take to support that?” Since we’re so heavily embedded in the forage world, we’ve looked at handling silage and manure trailers, but didn’t proceed because we felt we’d need a separate facility to work on that equipment to support customers in the time they’d need it.
We’ve added news lines in the last few years, though. When we dropped the Case IH line, we were looking for something to replace that to embed us a little better into the dairy and the feed yard world. We weren’t looking for another tractor line. We were looking at telehandlers and skid loaders but, of course, Bobcat, Cat were already taken and well represented.
We added JCB 3 years ago. And then they talked to us about the Fast Trac. We’d said no at first, but later when we took it on, we saw that the tractor fits us better in the forage world than we thought for forage and manure spreading.
Connelly: We’ve been a Fendt dealer since they essentially came here. We didn’t reintroduce new brands, but we’ve moved our tractor focus little more over to the Fendts.
Rankin: We got into the Claas tractors, too. We’ve kind of been waiting on more horsepower and now have some ordered to do triple-mower demos next spring. The JCB is not a farming tractor, so to speak. It’s halfway between a truck and a tractor, if you will. That’s the easiest way to explain it.
Connelly: That question about visiting the European manufacturers like this trip with Claas ... They’re on the high end of the sale. It’s high-quality and parts are reliable. You’re always going to have some stuff break, but it gets resolved.
&ldquoWe’re open to adding lines, but we won’t take something on just because it’s out there ... It gets harder as more brands want to come to the U.S.…”
Rankin: Yeah, I’d agree on the high-end scale. But with that high end sometimes comes a high-end price that keeps us out of markets that we want in and just can’t get there financially. So, there is a downside with being a high spec’d, high quality product.
Connelly: Some people just can’t wrap their mind around the benefits. Take the combine. Our combine can beat the others in fuel burn and grain loss; a very low loss compared to everyone else. We can pencil it all out, showing the data on the calculators. It can be $10,000 to $20,000 savings on a normal operation. But some just want to keep running what they have, even though making a change clearly pencils out.
Rankin: Change is hard and convincing someone to change anything is half the battle of sales. We’ve got a huge Deere dealer in our backyard. They just completed another merger that puts them at 20-some stores. They’ve got sizable and smartly positioned locations. We can’t be on as many street corners, so we’ve got other things we must offer with the service we provide.
Connelly: Not only do we have the huge John Deere group RDO that surrounds us but also Titan Machinery, the largest Case IH group in the country. And then more cross over other dealerships big and small. But the further we get away from town, the better off we are because we’ve able to service them more. That’s where we thrive.