The folks at Vice are at it again. In mid-February they published an article titled “John Deere Promised Farmers It Would Make Tractors Easy to Repair. It Lied.” I’ll give you a second to roll your eyes. As much as these types of articles might make our blood boil, we should take them seriously as they spread misinformation not just to potential customers but the general public and the politicians currently reviewing proposed bills on the topic.
As we reported a year ago, in 2018 the Assn. of Equipment Manufacturers and the Equipment Dealers Assn. formally announced an industry commitment to provide a comprehensive set of service information tools for tractors and combines put into service by model year 2021.
So is it true, did John Deere (and the other OEMs) lie about having this information and tools available by 2021? Of course not. In fact, the information has been available for customers for a while now. And, according to a Successful Farming article published last summer, farmers who own modern farm equipment can still perform 95% of repairs on their own.
“Deere’s Customer Service Advisor has been out and available to customers for years. We have customers using it today, but not a lot,” says Tom Rosztoczy, president of Stotz Equipment. “It was a big deal when it came out, but has probably dwindled in the public consciousness — at least among our employees and customers. In response to the article you mentioned, we have re-informed all of our employees about its existence and availability and how to handle inquiries they might receive.”
Brian Carpenter, general manager of Champlain Valley Equipment, says he recently caught up with several manufacturers on their status of getting a consumer-based tool to market. According to him, Deere, Case IH, New Holland and Claas all have an owner level version of the tool that is available. But, it hasn’t been well advertised. He says Kubota is close to having a tool ready, but has not released it yet.
“There is a new push to direct R2R legislation directly at agriculture in several states and the Farm Bureau is supportive of it. However, the testimony I’ve seen is geared toward emotional support but lacks in real substance,” Carpenter says. “For instance, one ploy was to call around to dealerships and ask if they can buy an electronic diagnostic tool. It’s been unusual for any parts person to know what they’re talking about so it looks much worse than it is.”
As Eric Wareham, vice president of government affairs for the Western Equipment Dealers Assn., noted in a February webinar with Farm Equipment, there are already 20 Right to Repair bills introduced throughout the U.S., with 8 of them specifically targeting farm equipment. While to date, none of the R2R bills that have been introduced over the last several years have passed, they continue to be introduced year after year.
With the issue not likely to go away any time soon, it’s imperative that dealers are educating their customers on the issue and what is available to them, as well as making sure their employees are up to speed on the issue and know how to answer any questions or requests that may come their way.
This is a colorblind issue — impacting dealers and manufactures of all brands. The various dealer associations as well as AEM are working hard to educate legislators about the issue. A number of dealers have testified on the topic. If legislation has been introduced in your state, I urge you to step up and let our collective voice be heard.