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Deere begins selling ATVs

May 6, 2004
Filed under Features

SARASOTA, Fla. — John Deere, the $14 billion equipment manufacturer, has jumped into the ATV business with a new line of machines made by Bombardier, which will be sold through about 600 selected Deere dealers in North America next year. Close to 300 Deere dealers now are selling competing lines of ATVs.
The Deere machines are based on Bombardier’s step-through Traxter utility machine under a joint venture agreement made earlier this year. The machines, available in standard John Deere green and carrying the Deere logo, will be in dealerships next spring.
The ATV line includes five utility models, the Buck, Buck EXT, Trail Buck 500, Trail Buck 650 and the Trail Buck 650 EXT. All models are powered by Rotax engines; the smaller models have a 498cc power plant and the 650 models are powered by a 644cc engine. The EXT models feature a 5.1 cu. ft. cargo box.
The Trail Buck models have a continuously variable transmission (CVT). MSRP will range from $6,499 for the Trail Buck 500 to $7,799 for the Buck EX and the Trail Buck 650 EX. (See story elsewhere on this page for a complete report on the Bucks.)
One Deere dealer located in northern Michigan said during the rollout here that he would order 25 machines if he could. He said he could probably sell at least 50 of the ATVs next year, even though he’s not now selling ATVs.
At the same time, Deere announced a major upgrade to its aging Gator line of utility vehicles. It’s added two small Compact Gators at the bottom of the line and five high performance models at the top of the lineup, including the first 4X4 Gator. The Compact comes with either a 249cc or a 286cc engine, while the high performance (HP) models come with either a 617cc Kawasaki gas engine or a 784cc Yanmar diesel.
Three of the five HP models are 4x4s. MSRPs for the Gator HP series range from $7,999 for the base Gator HPX to $10,499 for the Gator HPX 4×4 diesel. The Trail Gator HPX 4×4 with the 20hp Kawasaki has a top ground speed of 25 mph.
Shipments of the gas models will begin in January; diesel models will ship next June and July.
“Our research,” notes David Thorne, group brand marketing manager, “uncovered a growing market for the John Deere homeowner who wants some of the functionality of a Gator, but is looking for something more compact and appropriate for their property size.” The new models also add sizzle to the 10-year-old Gator line that’s starting to show its age. “We could use something new,” a Deere dealer told Powersports Business last summer at dealer meeting held by one of the Japanese OEMs.
“We want to be the undisputed leader in task vehicles,” said John May, director of vehicles marketing at Deere, noting that the Gator isn’t going away; it’s the mid-product between the Compact and the High Performance models.
Deere has done its homework. It believes there is a $2.5 billion market for utility vehicles, and that the machines will be purchased by very precisely defined customers. Deere has tagged these prospects with names like “Property Enhancer,” Dedicated Hauler,” and “Working Sportsman.” It then aimed a specific machine package at each group.
There are no plans for a recreational product in the lineup, said Deere officials repeatedly. Utility vehicles are their game.
Deere is also moving to attract the casual consumer with a much upgraded showroom concept it’s calling Deere Place. The program offers dealers “a chance to open the door to a business and design program that will transform today’s sales center into the ultimate retail experience,” says Deere in some of its promotion literature. The company is working with a design group called Design Forum to help with the program.
Based upon information available here, the stores could look like Arctic Cat’s World Class stores and might offer a separate concept for commercial customers and have a consumer service center placed close to the front. Implementation is scheduled for 2004.
Bombardier Gets Small Gator
Meanwhile, Deere announced that it has begun shipping its new compact Gator model to Bombardier, to be sold as the Bombardier Sarasota 1000. It’s a light utility vehicle — not an ATV — that features side by side seating. Bombardier has not announced an MSRP for the Sarasota, but Deere sells its basic Gator compact, the Gator CS, for $4,599. The Sarasota will be painted and badged as a Bombardier product.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity for us,” said a Bombardier spokesman, noting that in Australia, fore example, Sea-Doo is very strong on the coast and Deere is well-known inland. “We can work together very well.”

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