Outdoor power equipment (OPE) manufacturers outperformed all other manufacturers in the 2016 Equipment Dealers Assn.’s (EDA) Dealer-Manufacturer Relations Survey. LS Tractor, a compact and utility tractor manufacturer, received the Dealer’s Choice award for tractor manufacturers. John Deere received the Dealer’s Choice Award for full-line manufacturers.

The survey results were issued in June and represent equipment dealer attitudes on the lines carried during the period of Feb. 1-26, 2016. Dealers rate the companies whose products they represent on 12 key categories of dealership operations and support.

The survey was distributed to 12,769 dealers and data was collected anonymously by a third party. Fifty-five manufacturers met the minimum threshold of dealer responses in order to be included in the report. A total of 2,321 individual dealers participated in the survey for a total response rate of 18%, an increase from 15% last year. What’s more, there was 37.6% increase in individual manufacturer ratings.


Dealers rated the importance of 12 categories as they relate to the overall relationship with a manufacturer. As seen, the range of mean scores (1 indicating very important) is very tight, with product quality, parts availability, parts quality, product technical support and manufacturer response to dealers’ needs and concerns topping the list.

Joe Dykes, EDA’s vice president of industry relations, says, “It’s very critical for OPE manufacturers to have a strong dealer network. Their products go out to a much wider network than the large ag manufacturers, so they need to pay special attention to their dealers. It’s a different product than large ag, so they might be able to meet the needs of their dealers a little easier and that might be why they score a little better.”

What Counts Most to Dealers

This year’s survey asked dealers to rate the importance of 12 categories as it relates to the overall relationship with a manufacturer. (See the table “Ranking of Rating Category’s Importance” below.) The range of mean scores (1 indicating very important) is very tight, with product quality, parts availability, parts quality, product technical support and manufacturer response to dealers’ needs and concerns topping the list.

Dealer's Choice Awards

Full-Line Manufacturer: John Deere

Tractor Manufacturer: LS Tractor

Gold Level: Branson Tractor, Kubota, KIOTI

OPE Manufacturer: Grasshopper

Gold Level: Ariens, ECHO, Exmark, Ferris, Gravely, Hustler, Scag, Shindaiwa, STIHL, Toro, Walker and Wright Manufacturing

How You Rated Your Manufacturers

A total of 2,321 individual dealers participated in the 2016 Equipment Dealers Assn.’s (EDA) Dealer-Manufacturer Relations Survey, ranking a total of 55 manufacturers. Here’s a breakdown of the ratings for the categories of all manufacturers, OPE, tractor and shortline manufacturers as well as a breakdown for individual rural equipment manufacturers.

View Breakdown

Earning Recognition

Grasshopper, LS Tractor and Dixie Chopper each earned awards in the 2016 Equipment Dealers Assn.’s annual Dealer-Manufacturer Relations Survey Report.

We talked top representatives at each company to discover about what they are doing to help their relationship with dealers.

Stan Guyer, President of Grasshopper

Deryk Johannes, CEO of LS Tractor

Chris Vernon, VP and GM of Dixie Chopper

On a scale of 1 (extremely dissatisfied) to 7 (extremely satisfied), the average for overall satisfaction for all OPE manufacturers was 5.80. That compares with 5.53 for all manufacturers; 4.71 for full-line manufacturers; 5.28 for tractor manufacturers; and 5.52 for shortline manufacturers. Compared to 2015, all but 3 manufacturers experienced an increase in their dealer ratings. (See the table “How You Rated Your Manufacturers” on page 16 for a further breakdown of the ratings by dealers.)

Dykes says that generally the companies in the survey are ranking well on product quality. “Everybody is doing a good job of building a good product. Where the separation is coming from is in terms of how manufacturers are communicating with their dealers,” he says.

Using the Results

Patty Williams, sales manager for Mark Williams Outdoor Equipment, Murphysboro, Ill., says, “I think the survey is a productive and constructive way for dealerships to air their concerns. In the past, we weren’t able to do that collectively. We used to make calls and complain or go through a phone tree to help us,” she says.

Williams says the format of the survey being anonymous and from a third party is important. “However, I wouldn’t have a problem answering if it weren’t anonymous. A lot of the things I expressed in the comments section were things I’ve already discussed with my manufacturer. I don’t want to ‘blindside’ my manufacturer. If I wasn’t doing something right, I would want my customers to tell me.”

Analyzing Perceptions of Shortline Manufacturers

The July/August issue of Farm Equipment magazine, a sister publication to Rural Lifestyle Dealer magazine, includes an analysis of dealer ratings on shortline manufacturers. Vermeer earned the Dealer’s Choice recognition. Go to Dealers 'Grade' Their Equipment Suppliers to learn more.


She uses the survey to check for trends and inconsistencies — and to see how manufacturers that she doesn’t carry are rating. “Not to say that I would ‘jump ship’ from the brands I currently sell, but it does give us dealerships some leverage,” she says.

Williams says her main concerns relate to warranty reimbursements as well as manufacturer responsiveness. For example, she says she sometimes has to wait for the necessary technical schematics or information to service products. “A lot of manufacturers are being bought out by others, so we have this huge towering company that doesn’t know what’s going on down here. We’re a necessary expense and it feels like they’re trying to keep that expense to a minimum,” she says.

She shares information with her customers about those manufacturers that rate well. “Everybody wants to talk about a winner,” Williams says.

Working Together

Dale Magie, president of Moe’s Outdoor Equipment & Supplies, Liberty Township, Ohio, says he looks closely at the ratings of current and prospective suppliers. “We use it as a tool to determine the manufacturers we want to do business with and we look closely at their weaker areas. For our current manufacturers, we ask more questions of them and try to figure out why there’s a challenge in some areas. We’re probably already aware of their strengths and weaknesses, but we want to address how, together, we can work to get better,” Magie says.

Bonus Content

Three rural equipment manufacturers and 12 OPE manufacturers earned Gold Award recognition in the 2016 Dealer-Manufacturer Relations survey. Here are comments from many of those recipients on why they believe dealers recognized them.

read comments

“Dealers can be vocal people, but, sometimes, I think we’re intimidated by our vendors and afraid to say things. We’ve got so much invested in that vendor that we can’t live without them or make them mad, but you need constructive dialogue to keep any relationship strong,” he says.

Regarding the OPE manufacturers rating higher overall than other manufactures, Magie says that direct dialogue makes the difference. “We definitely see our reps more, so we build a stronger connection,” he says.


A 73-page comprehensive report is available to all EDA dealer members as a benefit of membership and to the manufacturers participating in the study. Manufacturers also have the opportunity to obtain additional survey data that includes company breakouts by region, detailed statistical data and additional information. For additional information on obtaining the survey data or membership, contact Joe Dykes at jdykes@equipmentdealer.org.


Issue Contents