Berlin, August 21, 2013 - Two years after John Deere's last major product launch in Lisbon, Portugal, which mainly focused on premium products for large arable farms and contractors, the company has taken another quantum leap (Leaping Ahead) in producing another batch of new products that serves a wide range of customer needs both in the agricultural and amenity sectors.
Along with Marcus Neeman, editor of Pitchcare Germany, myself and many other media journalists were invited to the official launch of these new products which began with an Oscars style presentation.
The show, which was choreographed with special affects, acrobatics, lasers and popular music, set the scene and gave an insight into what new products we would be reviewing in the coming days.
The tour was separated into two distinct market categories - agriculture and amenity turf products.
John Deere was keen to elaborate on what they see as the way forward in terms of R&D and production of new products to serve new and existing customers.
The company is keen to enhance premium products and expand their range for small, medium size and speciality farms; they are taking a three-step approach to attract new customers, which will include local authorities and other turf markets."
The first of these steps sees updates to John Deere's large horsepower equipment, to improve both the efficiency and comfort of these products.
"The second step is to expand the John Deere range of small and medium size tractors. These now include seven new product ranges from the smallest 4M to the compact 6MC/6RC Series tractors from their Mannheim factory. In the 80-120hp segment alone, the company now offers 27 new models."
Together with its dealers, John Deere is determined to pursue the 'Dealer of Tomorrow' strategy, unveiled in Lisbon two years ago. This aims to improve the customer experience by expanding the company's dealer network both in size and scale, and by providing a higher level of technical and agronomic expertise and support.
After a high tempo show and welcome to the press event, we were divided into our relevant sectors - Ag or Amenity -and then bussed to two different venues.
The amenity sector press arrived at the local and picturesque Galopprennbahn Hoppegarten horseracing track to see the new amenity turf products on offer.
We were welcomed by John Deere's European Turf Sales and Marketing Manager, Karsten Biber, who gave an insight into the history of some key John Deere turf products that have changed the way we manage and maintain turf surfaces.
On show was a range of old John Deere products dating back to the 1960s, with pride of place going to their first ever tractor mounted rotary deck lawn mower, the 110, whose four-stroke petrol engine produced 7hp. Also on show was one of the first ATVs, the five wheeled AMT 600.
This year's product launch also coincides with John Deere celebrating its 50th anniversary as a lawn and turf equipment manufacturer.
We were then split into four groups, with each group visiting one of four product stations, where we were given a quick review of the products on show and the opportunity to test drive and ask relevant questions.
Station 1 John Deere Home owner ( Domestic Markets )
Here, we saw a new range of domestic lawn machinery that included ride on mowers, pedestrian mowers and scarifiers.
John Deere's new X310 lawn tractor provides several new features for even more convenient operation, whilst maintaining the reliability and performance of the current X300 Select Series models. Power-assisted two-wheel steering is standard on this new machine.
The X310 is also now equipped with a hydraulic power lift to allow effortless adjustment and control of the rotary mower deck, with no further tools or settings necessary.
The range provides a choice of five different machines, including the X304 four-wheel steer and X305R rear discharge models.
With a choice of cutting widths ranging from 97cm (38in) on the X300 up to 122cm (48in) on the X320 model, the range is suitable for grass areas up to 8000m². The automatic transmission includes Twin Touch foot pedals and standard cruise control for easy operation.
These models will be available at John Deere homeowner dealerships in spring 2014.
To complement John Deere's comprehensive range of walk-behind lawnmowers, 2014 will see the introduction of the all-new RUN Series consisting of three models, the RUN41, RUN46 and RUN51.
Equipped with working widths of 41, 46 and 51cm respectively, RUN Series models are suitable for maintaining gardens ranging in size from 1000 to 2000m2. They feature a single-speed self-propelled transmission with Ready Start engine technology for simple start-up and operation. An optional mulching kit is also available for the RUN46 and RUN51 models, to increase their versatility.
Sales of all three new models will start in spring 2014.
Station 2 John Deere's Utility tractor compact range.
The second station highlighted the latest innovations and changes to John Deere's Utility tractor compact range.
With its new line-up of small tractors, John Deere is addressing the needs of municipalities, landscapers and contractors. These models include the 4M and 5E Series three- and four-cylinder tractors from 49 to 95hp.
New John Deere 4M Series tractors
The newly designed 4M Series combines high levels of comfort and low cost of operation. The 49hp 4049M and 66hp 4066M are versatile mid-specification tractors for applications where a narrow, low-profile compact tractor is needed. They are also suitable for large property maintenance and commercial applications such as landscaping.
Updated John Deere 5E Series tractors
Although designed primarily for use on livestock and small arable farms, John Deere's 5E Series three-cylinder tractors (55, 65 and 75hp) are equally suited to municipal and landscaping applications. They will continue to be powered by Stage III A engines for 2014. By contrast, the new larger four-cylinder 85 and 95hp versions will feature Stage III B diesel-only PowerTech engine technology.
Equipped with a spacious cab or easy-to-access open operator station, 5E three-cylinder tractors are now also available with a 12x12-speed power reverser in addition to the existing 9x3 synchronised transmission. Its 12 speeds between 2 and 38km/h (1.2 and 24mph) offer a wider selection of gears for each application and can reduce fuel consumption whilst driving at lower engine revs on the road.
A special new feature that caught my eye was the hitch assist; a set of buttons that help the operator hydraulically move the three point linkage and move the tractor forward or backwards without being in the cab, thus allowing safer control when hitching on different attachments.
Station 3 Gator utility vehicles
Station 3 provided the opportunity to try out a wide range of John Deere Gators, including the new four-seater XUV 855D S4 Gator and the powerful XUV 825i Gator, putting them through the paces around a testing trail track. These two new models offer advanced off-road performance, all-day riding comfort and the ability to challenge extreme terrain.
The powerful XUV 825i Gator is a new model engineered to be faster, more powerful and more agile than the current line-up of John Deere Gator utility vehicles.
Gators have always been known for their durability, versatility and safety. The XUV 852i maintains all of these core qualities, but the extra power and speed are what set it apart in the range.This was evident during our testing around the circuit.
Station 4 New Commercial mowing products
The final station introduced new additions to the commercial mowing range, which included the impressive X950R lawn tractor and the zero turn Z235, a model that I found very responsive in terms of manouvrability and speed.
Following customer feedback, the company has now launched the all-new X950R lawn tractor, whose rear discharge/rear collect system is the ideal solution when it comes to cut and collect performance.
A 24.3hp diesel engine combines with the powerful hydrostatic drive and large capacity hydraulic rear wheel motors to provide a smooth ride. In addition, a hydraulic differential lock supplies the extra traction needed to tackle more challenging terrain. The shaft drive and heavy-duty gearbox also provide the power needed to drive the deck for long periods in tough conditions.
The basic X950R will be available in four different configurations to suit different customer needs, with a choice of 122 or 137cm (48 or 54in) decks and either a low or high dump collector.
Several features are designed to provide high-performance mowing and collection. The deep design of the high capacity steel decks allows a constant grass flow and easily copes with even very low or tall grass. The operator also needs to empty the hopper less often thanks to the high capacity 550-litre (low dump) or 670-litre (high dump) units.
Homeowners can now mow their lawns faster, more easily and more efficiently with John Deere's latest zero-turn radius (ZTR) Z235. The EZtrak ZTR range has been redesigned to offer a compact, easy to use machine, especially for smaller or more intricately landscaped gardens. It has a forward speed of up to 10.8km/h (6.7mph), with a robust belt drive transmission that boosts ground speed. The mower's 360 degree turning ability makes it highly manoeuvrable and reduces the number of passes required to mow the garden.
John Deere is expanding its range of walk-behind professional mowers with the new PRO 47V, a robust and flexible entry-level mower specifically designed for the needs of smaller landscaping businesses or as an additional machine for contractors.
With a cutting width of 47cm, the handy PRO 47V is highly manoeuvrable even in difficult areas or around obstacles. Its comparatively low weight and comfortable carry handles allow one person to transport the machine easily , which is particularly helpful when frequently changing locations.
The folding handle and compact size of the mower also make it easy to transport, even in smaller vehicles.
Equipped with a powerful Subaru engine rated at a nominal 3.2kW and with variable-speed, two-wheel drive, the mower can easily tackle different mowing conditions in areas up to 2500m².
All in all it was an impressive show, in terms of logistics, organisation and professional marketing. There were, in total, 32 new models/upgrades on show.
As always, John Deere never fail to deliver. They have listened to their customers and responded to their research information based around three core values - performance, uptime and cost of operation.