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Versatile Brand Marches Forward

December 10, 2011
By: Margy Eckelkamp, Farm Journal Machinery Editor and Test Plot Director
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Versatile Four-Wheel-Drive  
 
 

Three years ago, the Versatile brand was reintroduced to the tractor market when its Winnipeg-based parent company, Buhler Industries, was bought by Russian company Rostselmash. At that time, the tractor lineup was moving forward with only the Versatile brand name.

Since then, the company has expanded through acquisitions and an increased investment in research and development. The acquisitions have included Redball sprayers, Feterl grain cleaners and augers, Westeel grain bins and Ezee-On seeding and tillage equipment.

Through its acquisitions and product development, the company has two brands: Versatile and Farm King.

"Each brand has its own strategy, with Versatile being focused on larger equipment and Farm King serving as a shortline that could be appealing to any equipment dealer," says Grant Adolph, Buhler Industries’ chief operating officer.

Six new tractors. "All along, we’ve kept the Versatile spirit in our company and in our tractors," adds  Dmitry Lyubimov, president of Buhler Industries. "Our first four-wheel-drive was built in 1965, and our tractors have had several names and different colors. But the constants have been reliability, power and easy maintenance."

The new four-wheel-drive Versatile tractors span 350 hp to 550 hp across six models.

"These new four-wheel-drives are the biggest change in the company," Adolph says. "We’ve kept the things we’re known for—Cummins engine, outboard axle and drivetrain—while adding a new cab, a redesigned hood and enhanced electronics."

The tractors are powered by Cummins QSX engines that meet Tier 4 Interim requirements by using cooled exhaust gas recirculation and a diesel particulate filter, which is located with the exhaust pipe. The regeneration process that occurs in the diesel particulate filter is a passive system up to 99% of the time and occurs without operator involvement. The typical regeneration cycle lasts about 30 minutes.

The Versatile 350, 375 and 400 models have an 11.9-liter Cummins engine with a top transport speed of 25 mph. The 450, 500 and 550 models are powered by a 15-liter engine.

Since 2007, Caterpillar transmissions have been an option in Versatile tractors but only in larger models. Today, the option is available across the full line. On the 350, 375 and 400 models, a mechanical Quadshift 12×4 transmission is standard.

"We have yet to have a transmission failure," says Wayne Goris, OEM sales manager for Caterpillar. "We have a robust heavy design that is 40% to 80% heavier than the competition. We fine-tuned these transmissions for Versatile so that there are close steps in the powershift, especially in the working range."

Ease of service is still a priority despite the additional transmission options and a new engine, points out Ryan Shust, product manager. "The side panels only take three minutes to fully remove. We moved the hydraulic tank so that the pump is always full of oil, eliminating dry starts," he explains.

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For the past three harvest seasons, a team at Versatile has been testing combines from its Russian parent company, Rostselmash. The testing started in Western Canada, which is the first region where the machines will be sold next year. The Torum combines were used to harvest corn, soybeans, canola, rice and flax and were matched with Geringhoff, MacDon and Honey Bee harvesting heads. The combines will be built in Russia, with reassembly occurring in Canada.

Function to a new degree. The new cab and sloped hood combine for a 35% improvement in operator visibility. The size of the cab alone was expanded by 20%, and the cab’s glass increased by 11 sq. ft. The operator’s environment features improved ergonomics: the dash shape matches the steering wheel, the righthand console can be adjusted in any direction, each control button has a hand rest and the hydraulic levers can be switched for joystick control. The climate control system now features eyeball vents. Other convenience features include a coat hook on the
column post, an improved training seat with storage compartment and Bluetooth capability.

The electrical system now features a 200-amp alternator. There can be up to 12 lights on the cab roof—either HID or standard quartz lights. An optional 115-volt A/C outlet can be put on the right side of the cab.

Power-heated mirrors are an option. There are four standard hydraulic remotes, and six are optional. Standard hydraulic flow is 58 gal. per minute (gpm), and 113 gpm high flow system is optional.

The three smaller models have a 300-gal. diesel fuel tank, and the three largest models have a 400-gal. diesel fuel tank.

The design of the tractor’s frame takes into consideration many factors. As fuel draws down, the rear ballast of the tractor doesn’t change. Opening the front grill gives access to the entire cooling system and the batteries. Front weight packages are attached under the tractor to further enhance the sightline and ease cooler and battery access. The fender design has been changed to accommodate larger tires.

Behind the scenes. The new Versatile tractors "are just a look into our future, as more pieces in our lineup are under development," Adolph says. The company continues to invest in its products and distribution. "We have changed our sales and marketing structure and our relationship with dealers, with improved programs in warranties, service and parts," Lyubimov says. "We have more people in the field, and we added financial services, a first for Versatile."

Buhler is investing in its dealers with a new training center in Winnipeg. A warehouse has been transformed with room for up to four tractors for demonstrations, classroom settings and exercises with full tear-downs of transmissions.

To increase awareness of its new line of four-wheel-drive tractors, Versatile launched the All Access Tour, with 11 stops across North America. Dealers and customers will get access to the new tractors as well as suppliers such as Caterpillar, Cummins, Raven and Versatile Finance.

When Rostselmash bought Versatile, the tractor factory in Winnipeg tripled its production. Today, about 40% of the tractors are sent to Russia and the former Soviet countries.

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - December 2011
RELATED TOPICS: Machinery, Tractors, Combines

 
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