Applying car industry preparatory standards to second hand machinery, we speak to a dealer who is making waves with his quality used tractors and loaders. Alex Heath went to Wales to find out more.
Having had no previous experience in trading farm machinery, Ryan Martin left his job at the family printing business based in Newtown and set up shop buying and selling tractors.
His business of the same name, Ryan Martin in its current form started trading farm machinery in 2015, after a stint working with a partner, and in the used car industry.
Of his experiences in the car industry compared to the tractor world Mr Martin says; “The car industry was so cut throat, and not an industry I enjoyed working in. I happened to buy a second hand Loadall, and sold it hassle free in next to no time.
“The experience where everyone in the chain was happy with the deal, was a world away from the car industry, that I decided agricultural machinery was the industry for me.”
Now based at Trefeglwys, nine miles west of Newtown, Mid Wales, the company shifts about 180 machines per year from the yard, packed with tractors and telehandlers of all makes and sizes. Mr Martin, who has developed an encyclopaedic knowledge of four wheeled machines, says he has no preference on make, providing the tractor is cosmetically and mechanically solid. “Mechanically we want tractors that are sound, but if some work needs doing to them we will make it right.
“Cosmetically, we would love for every tractor to be A1, but on farms that is not the case. If panels need replacing, that is fine, but we very rarely touch paint up as it gives customers the impression you are hiding something.”
The area Mr Martin is in has historically dictated the size of tractor he would buy, with a strong trade in 120hp loader tractors and large framed 150hp six-cylinder tractors. However, he says that the farms in his area are growing, requiring greater horsepower. Contractors are also turning to clean second hand machines instead of new, and his reputation is growing outside of Mid Wales where tractors are generally larger.
Recently he has had keen trade in larger tillage type tractors, including a Fendt 828, that sold particularly quickly, even though it was considerably bigger than the ‘usual’ type of tractor sold in the area.
The traditional loader tractor is still a major part of the business, but sophistication levels are rising he says, with more customers opting for continuously variable transmissions and automated capabilities as they look to use the tractor for more tasks.
Mr Martin is also seeing a larger demand for telehandlers in the area, replacing a loader tractor, or working in conjunction, as farmers in the area see the benefits of having a purpose-built materials handler. Similarly, on the loader front, he says buying a range of ages, sizes and makes provides customers with plenty of choice. Yard favourites are JCB and Manitou, as reliability and resale value are superior according to Mr Martin.
Age of the machine is becoming an increasing consideration for Mr Martin, who also exports a number of machines each year. He says both in the domestic and export markets customers are looking for increasingly modern machines, as cosmetically they are usually better.
In his opinion older tractors are now taking increasing amounts of time and effort to get to a state that he is happy to sell, which due to their basic nature are not what customers are looking to spend money on.
Sourcing the tractors he sells is mainly through dealerships that have taken machines in as part exchange or underwriting trade in offers direct off farm, as farmers look to main dealers for new models. Because of this, he takes in a variety of machines as a group, communicating with a number of repeat customers about their requirements. He says; “It is vital I keep in contact with my customers as they often let me know well in advance what they are looking for next. About 20 per cent of my business is done like this, which is good for everyone, and I can pass savings made on the purchase price on to the customer.”
He says more farmers are coming to him to underwrite their machines as a better discount can be got for going to the main dealers as a cash buyer, rather than having part exchanges complicate and devalue the deal.
Being fair and having integrity is Mr Martin’s priority, and he expects the same to be reciprocated when buying machines. He says; “I like to stand by the machines I sell, and if anything goes wrong with the machine soon after the customer takes delivery, I try do get it put right. Conversely, I like to buy from companies that are honest and let me know if anything needs to be done, prior to it arriving in my yard. If we know of any issues, we can soon get them fixed in our workshop.”
In the workshop is one full time experienced technician, plus a number of self employed engineers called upon as and when they are needed. When a tractor arrives, Mr Martin says panels and wheels are taken of, before the machine is steam cleaned. Gauges are put on the engine and hydraulic circuits ensuring they are performing correctly. Any work that needs doing is also carried out to a standard Mr Martin is confident to warranty. The interior of the cab is also cleaned and made as tidy as possible, replacing seats, mats and plastic if looking tired, with Mr Martin having the same approach as a car dealership in terms of presentation.
He says; “If a customer turned up on a car dealers’ forecourt and cars were dented and dirty, it would be unlikely many sales would be made. Why when trying to sell machinery, which costs considerably more than most cars do we expect the customer to buy an inferior product, when it does not take much time to get it looking right. I think it is all about being a professional outfit and providing the customer with quality service and products.”
Mr Martin says he is reaping the rewards of his attention to detail with repeat customers coming back to him for tidy second-hand machines, and word of mouth directing customers his way.
The recent acquisition of an artic lorry has also increased his business’ standing and profile according to Mr Martin, who says enquiries have increased as people have seen it travelling the length and breadth of the country. He says the lorry has opened new channels for him, cutting the price of haulage by doing more jobs in a day, and timelier deliveries and collections, instead of relying on hauliers.
It also reinforces his professional and service orientated focus in customer’s minds that he is a serious outfit looking to grow in the future. He says growth will come from the quality of the product he sells, honesty and service backup, which is already showing to be a winning combination for the business.