AGCO Corp. cited "EPA compliance and diminishing volumes resulting in an ever-changing industry landscape" when it announced it would discontinue production of its SpraCoupe compact, self-propelled sprayers for the North American market in 2013. The decision to dump the sprayer left dealers to figure out how to fill the gap in their product lines.
"If we followed the 'brand purity doctrine' [of the major manufacturers] it would have been a major shock," Greg Simpson told Ag Equipment Intelligence. Simpson owns Simpson Farm Enterprises, one of the largest retailers of SpraCoupe sprayers in North America through its four dealership locations throughout Kansas. SFE specializes in the sale of spray and application equipment.
"Back in 1998, we heard that SpraCoupe was for sale and we began sourcing another machine as we were unsure if we would still be a Coupe dealer when the sale was over," says Simpson. "As it turned out AGCO bought SpraCoupe and we have sold for them since.
"Dropping the line is not good news for us or our customers as it had a good following in certain markets. One customer told us, 'I hate to see the SpraCoupe name go away, but I don't want to see it on an inferior machine either.'"
Ag Equipment Intelligence editors spoke with other manufacturers and dealers at the Ag Connect Expo in Kansas City last month that speculated that AGCO's decision to dump the sprayer line was a way for it to get out from under several "cat and dog" distribution contracts it had with other dealerships. It would also be in line with AGCO's move to reduce its total number of dealers and to emphasize its desire to have more "full-line" dealers of AGCO machinery.
One of the dealers who asked not to be quoted directly, said, "AGCO is still trying to clean up some of the contracts it has with dealers who really don't do much in the way of selling sprayers. The dealers want to maintain the distribution rights in case they have a customer who wants to buy one. This will give AGCO the chance to further reduce its non-productive sprayer dealers.
"I wouldn't be surprised to see them bring out a similar machine in a few years to replace the SpraCoupe."
SpraCoupe was originally a homemade self-propelled sprayer built by a farmer. In 1961, it was acquired by Kirschmann Manufacturing of Bismarck, N.D. Just over 150 units were manufactured by 1965 as demand grew, and in 1973 it was purchased by the Melroe Manufacturing Co., maker of the Bobcat skid steer loader. AGCO acquired SpraCoupe along with Wilmar agricultural sprayers in 1998 and merged production into one plant in Wilmar, Minn.
Mark Sharitz, AGCO's marketing director for application equipment, said production of all SpraCoupe 2013 models would continue through May 2013. The company intends to continue manufacturing SpraCoupe parts.
According to a press release from AGCO, "For the past 50 years, the SpraCoupe brand has served farmers who want smaller professional-grade self-propelled application equipment for applying fertilizer and crop protection products on their own.
"However, the North American customer base for this segment has been shrinking, reflecting fewer, smaller farms and a growing number of larger farming operations, fueling demand for larger, more productive machines."
Sharitz said these market shifts combined with the cost for Tier 4 compliance "have made it impractical to continue the SpraCoupe brand after the 2013 model year."
Sharitz noted that AGCO would continue manufacturing and marketing its larger RoGator and TerraGator branded sprayers through its dealer network.
Simpson says, "We will not burn any bridges with AGCO as we will provide parts and service for these machines for years to come. Because of Equipment Technologies' Apache, which is the other machine we sell besides the Coupe, we will continue our presence in the marketplace as a dealer specializing in spray equipment sales, service, parts and education.
"We will decide if searching for another brand of spray equipment is feasible in the next few weeks. We look forward to new adventures in the application industry. We want to be associated with leaders and innovators of the sprayer world."
Mike Laethem of Farm Depot, which operates two and soon to be three dealer locations, and is the exclusive dealer of AGCO's Challenger equipment in the state of Michigan, says the move will have little effect on his business.
"We expect most of the SpraCoupe customers to migrate to used larger self-propelled sprayers. We do not plan on representing another brand as the smaller self-propelled sales have been declining in our market for the past four years."