Paul Wallem

I resigned from my career with International Harvester (IH) to buy a dealership 55 years ago, in 1968. Nineteen years later, I sold both following the Case IH merger. I had too much red in my blood to stay.

The biggest changes during those 19 years were:

  • Arrival of computers with the big improvement in parts inventory control and re-ordering. 
  • The IH XL program, requiring dealers to upgrade and improve service and parts depts.
  • The 1969 merger of Minneapolis-Moline, Oliver & Cockshutt into White. 
  • The massive impact of the IH 5-month strike 1979-80 which accelerated the IH downfall.
  • The “Perfect Storm” starting in 1980 for all dealers, with 21% interest, drop in farmland values, the extreme drop in machinery purchases, and the grain embargo. The number of U.S. dealers plummeted from 1980-1986.
  • The Tenneco purchase of IH farm equipment caused an immediate closing of one dealership if the same town had a Case and an IH dealer.
  • Multiple ownerships started to become popular – and by the 1990s, owners of 5 or more locations became common. 
  • The incorporation of AGCO started a major consolidation, including Deutz/Allis, Fendt, Massey Ferguson, Gleaner, White, Hesston etc. 
  • Then came GPS and Precision Farming. 

Following close behind was the impact of Digital Agriculture. Now, with electric tractors and autonomous equipment, the dealer’s need for skilled help to manage these changes is a real challenge. On top of all this comes the uproar over access to codes needed to do repairs by the owners.

I left out a lot of other changes, in order to dwell on those I feel have had the biggest impact. Times will never stop bringing changes. They never have.

How the magazines impacted our dealerships

During my years as a dealership owner between 1969 and 1987, both Farm Equipment and Implement & Tractor were important to me. Both described the changes in the industry and printed stories about unique practices that different stores were using. These two magazines were my primary sources as to what was going on in the industry.

One example comes to mind. When a dealer was interviewed about his in-house machine shop, it impressed me. He was doing all his own valve and cylinder head work rather than send those jobs out to another business. Other practices such as crankshaft repair were also in-house. I ended up buying out a local machinist and moving him into my service department. It worked out really well; we even ended up doing those jobs for another nearby dealer.

Then there is this reverse example. When Implement & Tractor ran the article about my leasing program, dealers called me to learn more. Some started their own program as a result.

When Farm Equipment ran the story about my second dealership, dealers called wondering if they should operate more than one store. 

These magazines were important to me. I had little time those days to read, and these two were priorities. They came in the mail and were easier to leaf through and digest than searching through the laptop is today. 

About Paul Wallem: Wallem spent 13 years with International Harvester starting as an assistant zone manager and advancing several times to be the worldwide farm equipment export manager. With extensive travel and a young family, he resigned to become dealer-principal of two IH farm equipment dealerships in Wisconsin and Illinois. He is an accomplished author, columnist and frequent contributor to Farm Equipment.

For more on Paul Wallem and his insights on International Harvester and the things that led to its demise, click here!

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