Just months after a supplier agreement had been reached, it appears joint-venture talks between Branson Tractor and Montana Tractors are over.
Kukje Machinery, parent company of Branson Tractor, said Friday in a statement to Rural Lifestyle Dealer that the joint-venture discussions with Montana Tractors have been terminated and Branson is appointing a new team of management
Young Nam, president of Branson Machinery in Rome, Ga., said in a statement that the talks ended “because of lack of economic support under the current business environment in the U.S.”
Kukje confirmed it will keep Branson Tractor as a main sales force in North American market and strengthen its customer services by appointing new managers.
Nam, the newly appointed president of Branson, named Glen Ezell as a vice president of sales and marketing. He stated that Mr. Ezell will lead “Team Branson” as Branson starts its “new beginning.”
Just a few months ago, Branson and Montana appeared headed toward a joint venture. Farm Equipment reported in December that Montana Tractors signed a supplier agreement with Kukje Machinery Co. of South Korea. Both companies market compact tractors largely for the rural lifestyle and hobby farm markets.
The deal was to give Montana “immediate access” to the Kukje brand of equipment, according to a news release posted on Montana’s web site. The line will be labeled as the Montana “Special Edition” and the tractors were slated to reach dealers this year.
At the time, Montana said plans for the joint venture in the U.S. are still moving forward, “with specifications of additional models in the early stages of development.” Ted Wade, Montana’s vice chairman and co-owner, was recently in South Korea for talks with Kukje.
The company has not yet responded to several follow-up questions posted by Rural Lifestyle Dealer.
Kukje has been making and distributing 21-65 horsepower tractors in the U.S. since 2003 through Branson, a wholly owned Kukje subsidiary, “and until completion of the joint venture, Kukje will also supply Montana Tractors with the same product selection,” Montana says in a news release.
Montana, and Kukje Machinery — an affiliate of Dongkuk Steel Mill Co., which makes tractors, combines, rice transplanters and diesel engines — officially began talks last June. Montana’s supplier, LS Cable, announced earlier this year that it would stop supplying tractors to Montana and enter the U.S. market on its own. Branson has struggled to establish a marketing presence and provide parts and service support for dealerships in the U.S., some industry observers say.
At last count, Montana and Branson would have had a combined 460 dealerships, and it stood to question whether the networks will be streamlined. There are also questions about Montana’s scheduled consolidation of operations to Taraboro, N.C., where Montana has purchased the former Farmtrac assembly plant. Branson has its own headquarters in Rome, Ga., and assembly plants in California and Georgia, while Montana lists locations in Springdale, Ark., and Tarboro, N.C.