CHINESE-brand tractors have their work cut out for them in an Australian market flooded with US and European brands.
Well-publicised court cases against one Chinese import brand did nothing to help the perception that their quality was improving. But don’t discount the new Chinese tractors, is the message from Victorian YTO distributor Les Clarke.
Mr Clarke became a distributor for YTOs 10 years ago through his business AusEquip and has recently joined forces with Queensland company YTO Tractors Australia.
He said the introduction of two new tractors — the 150hp LF1504 and 220hp LF2204 — was the joint venture’s platform to reinvigorate the brand in Australia.
“They represent advancement into the higher technology tractor market,” he said.
“The 2204 has GPS, autosteer, all the features the larger farmer requires for grain growing or whatever.”
They’re equipped with semi-powershift transmissions built in the old French Case New Holland factory that YTO bought to improve its production quality and source established technology.
Mr Clarke said that, while the transmissions had been superseded in the current market, there was still an appetite for the older powershift transmissions.
“Most people were happy with the Case IH transmission as it was,” he said. “YTO has said that they’re perfectly good transmissions and engines and are sticking with that.”
The tractors are powered by Cummins engines in a mishmash of components sourced from different manufacturers outside China.
“They use German clutches and Donaldson (US) filters,” he said. “They are taking other people’s technology from whatever part of the world is necessary.”
YTO is China’s biggest tractor brand and is held in high regard, with its engines used in most other Chinese tractors and its move into the Australian market started 10 years ago.
“I was selling about 100 second-hand tractors a year and they came and asked if I wanted to sell these YTOs,” he said.
“I had a look at them and listed a lot of things I didn’t like about them in the first lot and they said, ‘Fine, we will change it to what you want’.
“Then they brought it out with all those changes and I thought it was a very good product.”
Balanced engines and an equal-sized-wheel tractor were among those alterations and Mr Clarke said that they had impressed customers with their reliability in the years since.
“In just over 10 years, we have never touched a motor or a transmission,” he said.
“Mainly because they are based on the 90 series Fiat and they were a reliable tractor.”
Their sharp price has also been attractive with the 2204 retailing at $142,000 (+GST). You can’t buy another brand in that horsepower range in Australia for less than $200,000.
Mr Clarke said the older technology was among the ways the brand had managed to achieve the price point.
“They can produce a transmission much cheaper than Case could, because they haven’t had all the development costs. Those costs can be 70 per cent of the total cost,” he said.
He said the company was also using its success in China to bankroll the tractor in the international markets with aggressive pricing.
And it seems to be working.
“We sold six at the Henty Field Days and another four or five at Elmore,” he said.