With the likes of Kubota firmly in its sights, ArmaTrac is once again on a mission in the UK. This time a little wiser and more market savvy, it recently took the wraps off its grand plans at its grand opening. James Rickard reports.
At its grand opening, ArmaTrac UK, now based in Biddulph, Stoke on Trent, revealed ambitious plans for the UK, in particular, how it wants to be selling more than 500 tractors per year within the next five years.
While that is the type of figure which requires a sit down to absorb, the Turkish tractor maker reckons it has got a product to satisfy those who are hungry for a simple, sub-100hp tractor with a high spec to price ratio.
But wait, doesn’t this all this sound a bit familiar? Yes it does. Those of you with a decent memory will remember it was only three years ago the manufacturer tried to conquer the UK. It is fair to say things did not go quite according to plan that time.
However, now with new importer AS Tractors, it and ArmaTrac claim to have done their homework, with a thorough look at what the market wants and a strategy to build up a dealer network.
In terms of dealers, chairman of ArmaTrac UK, Ray McNally says; “We don’t just want to go jumping into bed with anyone. While we have been inundated with dealer interest, we want dealers who will give our product the time and attention it requires, and not play second fiddle to another franchise.”
Among the visitors at the opening, ArmaTrac says there were at least four serious prospective dealers at the event, with large enough distribution networks to cover Scotland, Norhern Ireland, Northumberland and the South West. The latter, which is Machine Serve, is now confirmed as an official ArmaTrac distributor.
Until the network is built up, ArmaTrac UK will be retailing tractors directly, within a 150 mile radius of its HQ at Biddulph. Mr McNally says; “To back these customers up, mobile service and support vans will be on hand. In addition, our five-bay garage here at Biddulph and extensive parts stores are covered for every eventuality.”
For an update on the sales network and how it is progressing, the manufacturer will be making an announcement in June.
Initial models available will be the 50hp 504e and the 110hp 1104Lux. Mr McNally says; “While there are plenty of other models in ArmaTrac’s range, we identified these two as being popular for the UK.
“In the future we may add larger models, but certainly for the next three years we want to concentrate on the sub-100hp sector.”
The event gave us a brief chance to check out both models. The smaller 504e is powered by a Perkins three-cylinder engine, which puts its 50hp down through a Carraro 12 forward/reverse gearbox. At the back end there is a mechanically controlled linkage, capable of lifting 2,200kgs, one double acting spool and a maximum oil flow of 48.5 litres per minute.
As standard, the larger 1104e model gets a 113hp Perkins engine, full synchromesh 16-speed ZF Gearbox, an electronically controlled linkage capable of lifting 5,000kgs, four double-acting spools, air brakes, 700kg of additional weights, and rear linkage/pto controls on the mudguard, albeit on the right hand side (left hand side controls are optional).
The 504e shares the same cab (roll bar optional) as on the larger 1104e, giving it a spacious environment inside, with decent visibility all-round thanks to curved rear windows. To keep things simple, everything is mechanically controlled. This does however have a downside as there are a number of controls dotted around the floor and sides of the seat, giving a 'cluttered' feeling, but they appear simple to use and well labelled.
Body work and rear mudguards look durable, but the rear wheels do stick out a bit, meaning muck will be able to fly onto the steps and windows – mudguard extensions would not go a miss.
On first impressions, the tractors look simple to use with predominantly mechanical control – something which we are sure will appeal to a lot of customers. Well known and proven parts from Perkins, Carraro and ZF will also go a long way to tempting customers.
And with introductory retail offers of £15,000 for the 504e and £26,000 for the 1104Lux, prices are pretty tempting too, with ArmaTrac wanting to make it as difficult as possible for farmers to justify buying second hand tractors.
Sales have already started, with the firm selling four units at this year’s Lamma, without customers turning a key, says the manufacturer.
One of those customers willing to take a chance was Chris Holland, an arable farmer from Peterborough. He says; “The first thing, and one of the major things, which attracted me to the tractors was the well known components used such as Perkins and ZF.
“While the tractor make is unknown and backup limited, at least with common components, sourcing spares should not be too difficult, if I need too.”
Suitability and specification levels were also a key consideration for Mr Holland. “It’s clear to see the ArmaTrac tractors are ideally suited for small farms which do not want to invest heavily, but still want a decent spec.
“Overall, for the price of it and a three year warranty, it was worth taking a punt.”