It's a divided outlook for tractor sales during the coming year. Nonetheless, tractor makers agree, the time for market planning is now.

"We're probably living through a time right now that will be one of the best we'll ever see. The good news is we don't see it ending in the short term. Global stock-to-use ratios are extremely favorable and we see it continuing for quite some time," says Doug Griffin, AGCO's vice president marketing in North America, from his side of the tractor table.

From the other side, Greg Embury, vice president sales and marketing, Kubota Tractor Corp., said, "We serve the smaller tractor market extensively and it was down 2% in 2007. We see that continuing. The low-hanging fruit's gone and it's time to do serious marketing."

Why the disparate outlook for equipment sales in 2008? Because, despite reports of booming tractor sales, the market is in flux. Ag commodity prices are nearing all-time highs, but housing starts are approaching lows we haven't seen in decades. When row-crop and livestock prices rise, so do the sales of big tractors. When housing sales fall, so do the sale of compact and utility tractors.

While these and other factors color how manufacturers look at their short-term prospects, most agree that it's time for dealers to plan now for where they want to be 5 years down the road.

A panel of 7 of the industry's leading tractor makers headlined the 2007 annual meeting of the Far West Equipment Dealers Assn. in Monterey, Calif., in late November and presented their outlook for 2008 while offering their thoughts on how dealers can prepare for the business ahead.

Tractor Makers — John Deere
Tractor Makers — New Holland

Tractor Makers — Kubota
Tractor Makers — AGCO Corp.
Tractor Makers — Case IH
Tractor Makers — Tractor 'Newcomers' Confront Different Issues