No one who regularly follows the ag retail marketplace can deny the past few years have been extraordinarily good. Not only have overall revenues steadily grown for most companies, but higher commodity prices have motivated grower-customers to plant more acres than ever before. Of course, these added acres of corn, soybeans, wheat and cotton require various levels of tender-loving care — and this has translated into great sales in the area of custom application.
In 2012, the custom application sector crossed over the $1 billion sales mark for the first time since CropLife® magazine started its annual CropLife 100 rankings back in 1984. And it looks as though the good times for the category are continuing. According to the 2013 CropLife 100 survey, ag retailers this year saw custom application revenues top $1.2 billion — a healthy $100 million bump from the year before.
Naturally, with this level of revenue gains in the custom application sector, ag retailers have spent plenty of time upgrading their self-propelled sprayer fleets with brand new units sporting various colors of the rainbow. And which colors have proven to be the most popular over the past 12 months? Therein hangs an interesting tale, to say the least.
AGCO, Deere Neck-And-Neck
Since the CropLife 100 survey began tracking self-propelled sprayer fleet sizes back in 2006, one company — AGCO Corp. — has consistently lead the rest of the pack. Without exception, units sporting the company’s trademark yellow paint have remained fixtures in more than 80% of the nation’s top ag retailers’ sprayer fleet (keeping in mind that most ag retailers have multiple sprayer manufacturers represented in their outlet yards).
And this trend has continued in 2013. According to this year’s CropLife 100 respondents, AGCO RoGators and Spra-Coupes are present in 82% of their sprayer fleets. Still, this is a slight decline from the 85% of ag retailers that claimed to have AGCO units in their fleet during the 2012 survey.
Of course, what has made 2013 really interesting in the sprayer arena is how the No. 2 position has played out. For several years now, John Deere has trailed AGCO in overall popularity when it comes to sprayers anywhere from 4% to 11% (the latter figure being the percentage spread between the two brands during 2012). For the most part, John Deere sprayers have been present in the 70% range of ag retailer fleets.
Until now, that is. According to the 2013 CropLife 100 survey, John Deere sprayers have finally cracked the 80% barrier, an improvement of 6% vs. 2012. Green sprayers now trail yellow ones by only 2% at the nation’s top ag retail outlets, so 2014 could be a very interesting year for the two category leaders.
Behind these two, red machines from Case IH have a solid hold on the No. 3 spot. According to the survey, Patriot models and their red cousins are present in 65% of the nation’s top ag retail fleets, down 8% from 2012.
As for the rest of pack, Hagie sprayers finished fourth in the 2013 survey, present in 20% of ag retail fleets. This was slightly ahead of GVM at 17% and Miller-St. Nazianz at 12%.
Going back to the fight at the top of the self-propelled sprayer list, 2014 could be a very telling year for both AGCO and John Deere. As part of our annual CropLife 100 survey of the nation’s top ag retailers, we’ve asked respondents to tell us which companies they plan to buy new units from in the coming year. As with the percentage of manufacturers represented in their current fleets, this question can (and often does) have multiple answers to pick from.
And here again, the news is better for green machines than the rest of the pack. According to the 2013 CropLife 100 survey, 57% of those polled plan to buy John Deere sprayers in 2014. Meanwhile, AGCO sprayers finish a close second at 52%. In third place is Case IH with 43%, followed by GVM at 11%, Miller-St. Nazianz at 6% and Hagie at 5%.
Of course, even better news is that ag retailers are apparently staying in their spending mood when it comes to self-propelled sprayers. For example, in 2011, better than one-fifth of those surveyed (21%) said they had no plans to purchase new units during the 2012 calendar year. In 2012, this percentage had dropped to 14% for the upcoming 2013 season.
But in 2014, only 12% of CropLife 100 retailers plan to sit on the sidelines when it comes to buying new sprayers for their fleets. Perhaps reflecting this level of confidence in the marketplace, virtually every self-propelled sprayer manufacturer is planning to introduce new or upgraded units to their family of products in time for the 2014 season to begin.
The Service Winner
If you are looking for some reasons why John Deere seems to be gaining in overall popularity and purchasing intent among ag retailers, look no further than the company’s level of service at its dealership level. For the past few years, the CropLife 100 survey has asked respondents which equipment manufacturer offers the best level of service to its customers. During 2012, Case IH finished first on this question at 40%, with John Deere finishing a close second at 37%.
But in 2013, John Deere has pulled into the lead. According to this year’s survey, John Deere was perceived as tops among manufacturers in service at 40%. Meanwhile, Case IH saw its share drop to 28%. AGCO was a fraction behind at 27%, an improvement of 10% from the 2012 CropLife 100 ag retailers survey.