As dealers are worrying about electric farm machinery entering the market, Columbiana Tractor’s Chris Mundy is making moves to set his dealership up for success with electric far into the future.
“You’ve got to be thinking outside of the box constantly to grow your business,” says Mundy, a managing partner at Columbiana Tractor. “If we can offer something that no one else has, it gives us a huge opportunity to get ahead of our competition.”
Columbiana Tractor, a single-store dealership in Westover, Ala., is Solectrac’s first certified dealer in the southeastern U.S. Columbiana Tractor joins Brim Tractor, an 8-store dealership in Washington and Oregon, as the only two Solectrac-certified dealers in the U.S. as of May.
Mundy discovered Solectrac through a LinkedIn connection with Glen Ezell, Solectrac’s director of dealer development and longtime tractor industry veteran. Mundy saw Ezell’s likes on Solectrac’s LinkedIn posts, so Mundy decided to look into the company and message Ezell.
“You’ve got to be thinking outside of the box constantly to grow your business…” – Chris Mundy
“I saw the greatest opportunity in the world to be one of the first tractor dealers in the country to be a part of this,” Mundy says.
Columbiana Tractor carries LS Tractor, Branson Tractor, Titan Implement, Sunward America, Bobcat, Altoz and Scag Power Equipment brands. Mundy thought the dealership’s customers — mostly equestrians, hobby farmers and specialty crop growers — would benefit from the quieter, cleaner operations of an electric tractor.
“The equestrian side is where we’re seeing a lot of people inquire,” Mundy says, “and I think as horsepower progresses, that’s going to get us onto hobby farms and row crops.”
Providing, Receiving Support
Prior to signing on as part of Solectrac’s dealership network, Mundy met with Mani Iyer, Solectrac’s CEO, and Ezell to ask questions about the support the manufacturer would offer for servicing electric tractors.
By the end of the conversation, Mundy says he felt confident that Columbiana Tractor would be able to answer customers’ questions about service and provide the same high level of service on the new electric tractors as it would with any other piece of machinery.
The challenge of selling and servicing electric equipment is somewhat lower for Columbiana Tractor, as the dealership has a service manager who came from Honda and is familiar with electric cars. This service manager and the dealership in turn have a better understanding of the safety practices and maintenance that come with electric vehicles.
Solectrac will provide several days of hands-on training. The training will focus on electric technology because the techs already know tractors and the dealership’s customers, says Martha Hennigan, director of sales operations and marketing at Solectrac. Mundy is having one technician go through training to start.
“If you have a dealership that has the proper training and support from the manufacturer, the rest is going to be fine,” Mundy says.
Columbiana Tractor recently built a new dealership, and while Mundy didn’t know he’d be carrying electric tractors at the time of its construction, the new location provides enough room to dedicate to an electric service bay when the time comes.
The initial up-front parts and inventory investment to sell Solectrac’s electric tractors isn’t much for Columbiana Tractor, according to Mundy. The tractor’s battery lifecycle is 2,500 cycles with a runtime of 3-6 hours, depending on the load, so Mundy says the dealership won’t stock batteries immediately. The dealership has standard tractor parts on hand already.
“Education is key because customers don’t know if you don’t throw it out there…” – Chris Mundy
“It’s going to be key for the customer to know that it’s going to be standard maintenance, and that’s pretty much it,” Mundy says. “There’s not much of that to be done as well.”
Columbiana Tractor plans to have loaner tractors available to give customers should their machine need servicing.
The dealership will also use the loaners for demonstrations, which Mundy sees as key to sales of the new line. Columbiana Tractor held an open house in March and ran a Solectrac e25 25-horsepower compact 4WD tractor in the field behind the building. Mundy says the dealership received a good response from customers who saw the electric machine in action.
In fact, Columbiana Tractor made two sales of Solectrac tractors within the first few days of announcing its certified dealership status.
The tractors are going to customers who have horse arenas at their houses and hobby farms. Mundy says the customers should receive the tractor within a week of closing the sale, and those customers are very excited about their new electric machines.
Columbiana Tractor makes an effort to ensure their customers are confident in their buying decision, and that mentality doesn’t change with the addition of machinery with a new power source, Mundy says.
Once customers step out of their comfort zone, usage of electric tractors will “spread like wildfire,” he says.
“This is a huge opportunity for education about what’s down the road for electric tractors,” Mundy says.
“I think you’re going to have a division of customers who want to do things more green, and I think education is key because customers don’t know if you don’t throw it out there.”