Despite the unexpected challenges — a pandemic that just won’t quit, the supply chain issues that have come with it, the Derecho wind storm, etc. — 2020 has been somewhat of a breath of fresh air. September year-to-date numbers in the U.S. show tractor sales are up 14.7% and in Canada they are up 8.9%. In September, 4WD tractors “were especially robust” at up 21.2% year-over-year, which is the strongest in nearly 2 years notes Mircea (Mig) Dobre, an analyst with RW Baird.
Dealer optimism has been on the rise the second half of the year, after recovering from some very large dips with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Ag Equipment Intelligence’s latest Dealer Sentiments & Business Conditions survey, a net 16% of dealers reported being more optimistic in September compared to August. Now that Election Day is upon us, that could swing the opposite direction depending on the results.
Results from the 2021 Dealer Business Outlook & Trends survey show 95% of dealers report they’ll be profitably in 2020. The survey results also indicate that 2020 has been a better year than most dealers had expected last year. In 2019, just 3.4% of dealers were forecasting 2020 new equipment revenues to be up by 8% or more and 5.3% expected used equipment revenues to be up by 8% or more. Currently, 35.9% dealers are estimating new equipment revenues for 2020 to be up 8% or more and 26.9% are expecting used equipment revenues to be up 8% or more.
Interest rates have been at all-time lows, which one Corn Belt dealer says has been helping to drive equipment sales. Another Corn Belt dealer says, “I am optimistic going into 2021. Low interest rates, government programs and aggressive manufacturer programs are continuing to drive sales.”
The two big obstacles right now — the U.S. election and a backlog of new equipment inventory. One dealer from the Lake States/Northern Plains region says, “The lack of product is our biggest hurdle. People want equipment, but the manufacturers cannot supply us with it in time.” As it relates to the election, dealers note that 2021 will be driven by the results of the election. “The future for foreign trade, markets and policies are unknown. Next month will determine how 2021 will be,” says one dealer.
I’ve heard from some dealers who says customers are waiting on some big purchases until after the election because depending on who wins they can either afford the purchase or they can’t. Although, one dealer I spoke with said that while he’s had a number of customers say, “We’ll see how the election goes,” part of him thinks it’s more filler than anything else. He hasn’t been able to translate what that means for the business. Election day is finally upon us, and hopefully we’ll have some answers sooner rather than later.