As difficult as the 1960s were for agriculture, it was a breakthrough period for John Deere. The most significant milestone during the period, says Gause, was Deere overtaking International Harvester as the world’s largest farm equipment maker.
While many factors led up to Deere’s market dominance, Gause recalls what may have been the defining event that resulted in the company becoming the king of the farm equipment hill.
“When I started, IH was number one. Their big sellers were the Model M and Super M tractors. Just about that time they introduced their 560 and 660 tractors and went to a six-cylinder engine. These tractors had a high-torque range for that period of time, and it was a really bold move on their part. I think they were trying to catch up with Deere’s 1960 introduction of The New Generation of Power.”
According to Gause, IH introduced several upgrades to its new tractors but they didn’t change the final drives to match the higher power and torque levels, which led to major service problems that the dealers had to contend with. “IH didn’t really support their dealer organization” through this ordeal, says Gause.
“I was territory manager in central Oklahoma at that point and I remember talking to a very successful IH dealer. He told me that he had sold a hundred 560 tractors, and all of them had to have the rear end fixed. He lost a lot of money.”
This opened a big door for Deere dealers who saw their sales increase dramatically. The downside of this rapid growth was the dealers were trading for a lot of competitive tractors and used inventory was building at a fast clip.