Having recorded four years of buoyant annual growth, executives at Claas in Germany are confident that its Omaha, Neb.-based operation will continue to capture a growing share of the North American combine market — and are looking ahead to the day production will need to expand to meet demand.
“Over the past four years we have enjoyed 20% annual revenue growth in North America, although from a relatively low level, of course,” says board spokesman Dr. Theo Freye. “But despite our strong performance over this period we can still grow further.”
As the executive who launched the Claas initiative in North America, Freye retains a keen interest in the operation and also in a market that he says has come to embrace harvester technology. That is good news for a manufacturer with a reputation built on innovative technologies as it vies with New Holland and AGCO for the number three position in the U.S. behind Deere and Case IH.
“Our objective with the Lexion has always been to produce the most efficient harvesting machine, and large farmers operating Class 8, 9 and 10 combines are now much more open to using technology to get greater productivity,” says Freye. “We are getting good repeat business, but we have to prove to customers that Claas combines are worth operating over our competitors’ machines.”
Recent initiatives such as the Lexion Field Ready Reconditioned program and launch of the HarvestingWord.com used machinery website by a number of Claas dealers are designed to promote and bolster confidence in used Claas hardware and keep the maximum population at work in the field.
Claas isn’t averse to investing in distribution when necessary. Last year, the Nebraska Harvest Center was formed as a 100% subsidiary to fill a gap in the company’s distribution in the U.S. With headquarters in Omaha, facilities in Seward and Wayne handle service and parts in eastern Nebraska.
The former dealer, Cat distributor NMC, continues to provide service cover across the west from its branches in North Platte and Gering.
“A year on, Nebraska Harvest Center is very well accepted,” says Freye. “We have a lot of experience in retail and service support through similar ventures in Europe, particularly in France and Great Britain.
“We still have some very strong Caterpillar and independent dealers in our U.S. network,” he adds. “We love to work with dealers, but if necessary we will set up our own [network] to maintain uninterrupted coverage.”
He also champions the continued production of Claas combines in North America. “It improves product supply and makes it easier to configure machines for what growers want,” he says.
Leif Magnusson, president of Claas of North America Inc., is hopeful that within five years Claas sales will grow enough to warrant doubling the size of its manufacturing and assembly facility, which currently employs 100 staff completing the assembly of Lexion combines.
Core technology assemblies continue to be shipped from the headquarter’s plant in Germany but an increasing proportion of local content currently stands at around 40%.
“Our goal now is to keep increasing local content, and with that we’re looking for suppliers all the time in this region,” Magnusson said during a visit to the plant by prospective customers last month.