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May 2009 Archive for Machinery Journal

RSS By: Aimee Cope, Farm Journal

The Machinery Journal blog is your place to find the latest machinery updates, industry news, and interesting tid bits.

An Electric Farm Truck?

May 27, 2009
The future of electric pick-ups is promising as the first retrofits may be on the road as early as September. RV-maker Gulf Steam is teaming up with a California-based company, Electric Motors Corp. (EMC), to produce 50,000 electric trucks annually by 2013. 
 
The first pickups off the line from Gulf Stream and EMC will be retrofitted light-duty trucks boasting 40 mpg using a plug-in serial hybrid electric powertrain. Any light-duty truck–the Chevy Silverado 1500, Ford F-150, and Dodge Ram 1500–can be converted. [a picture can be found here]
 
The retrofit reconfigures the truck as follows. The powertrain system uses an electric motor to power the wheels. A small gas engine is as an onboard generator and range extender. In all-electric power mode, a retrofitted truck could travel 40 miles before the gas engine would need to recharge the batteries.
 
By July, two static displays of electric trucks should be public. In September the company will have two drivable trucks for promotional events and then a low-volume production should ramp up by 2010.
 
No final announcements for pricing have been made, but eventually, the partnership expects to retrofit mid-sized and heavy-duty pickup trucks as well. The production of these trucks will be centered in Indiana.

Plugfest: When wires get crossed

May 23, 2009
Plugfests are held twice a year, and they have nothing to do with hair replacement treatments.
 
More than 70 engineers representing all kinds of ag equipment and electronics manufacturers gather to test the feasibility of plug and play.
 
We last reported on the ISOBUS 11783 electronics standard, more than two years ago. (Tractors and Tools That Talk)
 
Since then, there has been significant progress toward cooperating companies working together toward a compatible future.
 
At a Plugfest, all of the companies set up their equipment in a horseshoe shape around a meeting room. Then according to scheduled time slots, they rotate around the u-shape of meeting tables and plug in their equipment to another’s. A detailed record is taken of what works (but more so what doesn’t). After the Plugfest, the engineers put their discoveries into their queue to be resolved. That’s until the next Plugfest when they do it all over again.
 
I left the meeting with an appreciation of all of these companies (who are pretty intense competitors at times) working together on behalf of farmers. All of them said at one point, they just want their customer to be able to get the most out of the product they’ve purchased. And they don’t want farmers to have any downtime because of electronic incompatibility.
 
ISOBUS 11783 is an international movement. In fact, the European market leads the effort. The North American group will join with the European and Brazilian ISOBUS groups to continue their efforts together in the Ag Industry Electronic Federation (AEF). The AEF will provide a global platform for testing, compliance, and development.

Auction Items Bolstered By Strong Sales

May 15, 2009
A ten-day online auction hosted by RDO Eequipment Co. will feature a consolidated inventory from across their multi-store business. It's regular end-of-spring event, but this year’s equipment has an overall reflection of the machinery trends in the past year. The company notes that the strong sales in 2008 have provided a wealth of high quality and late model equipment across their dealerships. For more click here: RDOauctions.com.
 
From the looks of things, the overall ag market is still strong albeit not at five-year highs. AEM released their April sales report this week. Although overall tractor sales are down double digit percentages compared with year-to-date numbers from 2008, combines and four-wheel drives are still maintaining higher sales than this past year. For the full report click here www.AEM.org.
 
Seems like big ticket items are driving the market. And from conversations I have had with farmers, dealers and company reps, technology sales are hot as well. I've seen a lot more guidance, steering systems, monitors, variable-rate controllers and tech components installed on planter tractors than previous springs.

Mount Skidmore Hill Climb

May 05, 2009
John Deere is back for its second “Prove It Tour,” and has begun posting competition videos to its website: www.skidsteersmackdown.com.
 
In the first installation, two skid-steers first negotiate two small moguls and conquer a five-foot berm, grab a bucket of dirt and tackle the same obstacles on the way back to the starting line.
 
The filming of the competition drew a crowd of 1,000 people, and as these video are posted to the site you can join in the fun.

Fiat Plots Its Chrysler Plan

May 01, 2009
What made Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne say, “that would be putting the donkey ass-backwards”?
 
Well, it starts with a news headline that hasn’t happened since 1933. Chrysler has become the first major American automaker to seek bankruptcy protection since Studebaker.
 
As of Thursday, Chrysler entered into an alliance with Fiat as Cerberus Capital Management gave up its ownership. In the new arrangement, the U.A.W. will be the majority owner of Chrysler, but Fiat is being looked at to step in with a new management plan of the troubled automaker. (The complete alliance is described here)
 
Fiat is the parent company of CNH, owning 90% of Case IH and New Holland’s ag and construction business. This isn’t Fiat’s first dance with U.S. automakers. In 1991, it merged with Ford to create New Holland. And then in 1999 it took over Case Corporation.
 
For five years, Fiat tried to navigate a cross-share ownership with General Motors, but that was terminated in 2005. It’s reported that Marchionne decided to focus the company on integrating Case and New Holland rather than continue its partnership with GM. He then devoted time to worldwide factory tours, and one week of every month for meetings to clear the air of CNH management issues in North America and Europe.
 
And this brings us almost up to speed with the context in which Marchionne made his donkey comment. In Fiat’s 1st quarter investor call a week ago, Marchionne updated the audience on the Chrysler deal and entertained a variety of questions about Fiat’s plans with becoming involved in Chrysler and its bankruptcy filing.
 
Currently, Marchionne values Fiat’s CNH business segment. And when asked if Fiat would want to sell off an asset from their business portfolio to invest financially in Chrysler, Marchionne said selling CNH to provide capital for such an arrangement “would be putting the donkey ass-backwards.” He continued that “We have an obligation to not do stupid things.” His view is that the car business is the problematic sector, and he think through proper management it can improve–not extraordinary investment.
 
Throughout that conference call Marchionne made statements of dedication to see this Chrysler arrangement come to fruition. Now that it has, he says Fiat will provide management support, technology sharing and distribution growth.
 
And we’ll see how Fiat writes its next chapter in its involvement in the U.S. car industry.
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