The sheer size of Agritechnica – with more than 2,300 exhibitors from 46 countries – makes it a perfect place to take a global pulse of the machinery industry. The current mood and outlook for 2010 is cautiously positive. Even though the boom times of 2008 seem long ago now, the dozens of executives that agreed to confidential interviews believe the iron business has stabilized and will begin to climb again by the end of 2010.
That doesn't mean that manufacturers heavily vested in the Eastern market of former Russia aren't still reeling from the stratospheric spike in machinery sales in 2008 and the even more dramatic screeching halt to sales in 2009. The financial crisis and credit paralysis changed the market overnight. "This is just a crisis, it will pass like they all do," explained one Russian equipment maker, talking about the market meltdown in a matter-of-fact manner like U.S. farmers talk about the occasional drought.
That abrupt change in Eastern Europe not only impacted new iron but froze sales for used machinery as well. At this point, that is causing ripples in many countries. Used machines pack many dealer lots in Europe, but the effect also seen around the world, including the U.S. "Used machines have to be unloaded somewhere and there is not better place than the East, which has been hungry for equipment," noted one executive.
In keeping with the belief that the industry bounce back from the recent boomerang ride, most companies continue to invest in research and development. "This is a time when it is critical to keep putting dollars and Euros in technology for the future. We will fight to hold the course."
The wild ride of the last few years – and the ongoing consolidation in the machinery business – has some companies looking for suitors and some larger companies thinking about "what if" scenarios. Of course, there's no better place for deal-making than at the world's largest machinery show with a who's who list of attendance from all points of the globe.