A Rural Lifestyle Dealer Staff Report

We may not have seen every one of the more than 1,000 products on display at the 2019 GIE+Expo, but we gave it our best shot. The Rural Lifestyle Dealer team joined more than 24,000 participants at the industry’s largest trade show, held recently in Louisville, Ky.

Robotic mowers, and now large commercial versions, captured attention, along with a growing offering of battery-powered equipment (zero-turn mowers and hand-held equipment) as well as internet connectivity software. There were also marketing strategies related to affordable pricing and more pro-sumer offerings.

Ergonomics and ease of operation, from seats to starting procedures, were differentiating factors. Manufacturers also bragged about rugged designs and ease of maintenance. However, as some even on the manufacturing side admit, it can be difficult for both newcomers and veterans to really differentiate one product from another.

That’s where dealers can shine, backing up good products with even better customer support.

Here’s a round-up of some of the new products on display. Go to www.RuralLifestyleDealer.com to view product news and exclusive video interviews.

A&I Products Atlantic Braids, Lubrication Equipment


A&I Products offers Atlantic Braids professional arborist rope for climbing, rigging and throwing. One product, the GripFlex-24, is made with a 24 strand braided polyester core. They have superb knot holding ability, can be spliced and are lightweight. Another product,  Prolube professional lubrication equipment, includes a variety of high quality grease guns, grease couplers, adapters and hoses. “In the past, we had different rope products coming from different suppliers. We’re excited to now have all our rope-related products coming from one supplier,” says Jay Ouwinga of A&I Products/Sunbelt Products.


Billy Goat Next Gen Debris Loader


Billy Goat’s upgraded debris loader now features a new square elbow on the discharge chute for rugged wear and increased life. The heavy-duty clear urethane helical intake hose has a user friendly nozzle design. The loader also features a thick, armor plated 4- or 6-blade impeller with Piranha blade for extra shredding. “The upgrades continue to improve the value of the Billy Goat debris loader,” says Pierre Pereira, Billy Goat’s senior director of sales for North America.


Walker Mowers Model R


Company president Ryan Walker called the Model R an expanded opportunity for dealers to reach into the consumer segment with a unit that retains the out-front deck and balanced ride that makes a Walker Mower special. It’s an expansion in the Walker brand to allow dealers to sell more units to more customer segments.

Featuring belt-driven blades, the R21 features a 21 horsepower Kohler KT620 engine with Smart-Choke technology and offers both 42-inch and 48-inch options in either discharge or mulching cutting deck options.


Bush Hog Remote-Controlled Slope Mower


Coming in 2020, Bush Hog’s new BH2843RC remote-controlled mower increases productivity and saves users from putting themselves or their tractors on dangerous slopes. Operated by a hand-held digital control unit with a 450-foot working range, the mower can cut and maintain traction on up to a 55-degree slope.

The 39-inch tracks provide stability with minimal ground disturbance and the 28 horsepower Briggs Vanguard gas-electric hybrid engine is strong enough to power through tough grasses. 


Toro Titan Zero-Turn Mower


Toro’s new 60-inch zero-turn is targeted for those with large acreage. It features the company’s MyRIDE Suspension System, commercial drop pin height of cut, cannister style air filter and a flexible discharge chute. The Titan also offers a wide front tubular axle, huge front tires and a reinforced 10-gauge high-strength cutting deck. “It’s a mean looking machine and it’s priced to go at $4,999,” says Tom Werner, Toro’s marketing manager. 


Cub Cadet Pro-X Series Stand-On Mowers


Cub Cadet introduced its first commercial stand-on zero-turn mower, the Pro-X Series in 48-, 54- and 60-inch decks with Kawasaki FX691V or Kawasaki FX801V engines. Features include a fully fabricated 10-gauge deck shell and 7-gauge top and bottom reinforcements, plus standard 24-inch tires provide good ground clearance. The mower also features a large, fully adjustable suspension platform, a deck lift assist and bolstered adjustable hip pads. “The stand-on mower is the final piece for Cub Cadet to offer a full solution of commercial products,” says Aaron Griffith, Cub Cadet’s national sales manager.


Country Clipper Boss XL Zero-Turn Mower


Country Clipper introduces its commercial grade Boss XL zero-turn mower. Oversized tires, a wide wheel base, and a low center of gravity provide superior holding capabilities. The Boss XL is built with a tough deck, a reinforced bullnose front and high-impact anti-scalp rollers. Country Clipper’s exclusive joystick control makes operation easy and the Twin Lever control option is available on most models. Blaine Fields, national sales manager, says, “The joystick steering control system, over the past 30 years, has allowed us to deliver a unique operating experience to our customers making our mowers easy and comfortable to drive.”


Kioti’s ZXC Series


The ZXC series of zero-turn mowers was designed for commercial applications with professionals in mind. The series offers deck sizes of 48, 54 and 60 inches, each with a fabricated, reinforced 10-gauge steel deck. Features include suspension seats and operator control modules. Briggs and Stratton’s Commercial engines power the standard series, with the Kohler Command Pro powering the SE premium models. “The decks are the same on the commercial and residential models. We offer a good heavy-built machine,” says James Little, who works in dealer development.


STIHL MS 500i Chain Saw


The STIHL MS 500i chain saw is the company’s first ever to incorporate STIHL fuel injection technology. The chain saw, which is coming soon, is suited for professional forestry personnel and tree service professionals. It features a simplified starting procedure requiring users to only push the primer bulb and pull the starter cord. The optional wrap handle version allows the chain saw to be used in multiple positions. “The MS 500i has an excellent power to weight ratio, simplified starting procedure and rapid acceleration,” says John Allen, STIHL product manager. 


Husqvarna Z400 Series


The Husqvarna Z400 series of commercial zero-turn mowers offers a heavy-duty cutting deck, wide caster wheels and commercial spindles with tapered roller bearings. The integrated transmission provides increased fuel efficiency and more usable power. Other features include a premium commercial seat, easy fold over roll-over protection system, digital fuel gauge and easily visible deck height adjustments. “We’re introducing the Z400 as our opening price point for professional equipment. The transmission is as game changer with 10% more fuel efficiency,” says George Reister, Husqvarna’s global product manager.


Mean Green Atom


Mean Green and The Kobi Co. have teamed up to introduce the Atom, a fully autonomous commercial mower solution. The KobiVision system continually calculates the position of the mower with an accuracy of a half inch, without the use of guide wires or beacon installations. Sensors ensure safe and smooth operation and artificial intelligence recognizes humans, pets, trees, etc. “This is going to solve the biggest issue in landscaping today, the labor issue,” says Steven Waelbers, chief technology officer of Kobi.


Exmark 96-inch Lazer Z


Exmark introduces its 96-inch gas-powered Lazer Z commercial mower. The mower features a Kohler EFI air-cooled gas engine and a belt driven UltraCut rear discharge with flex wings. A new hood design and isolation device minimize the effects of heat and debris on the engine and increase performance. “This machine builds off the Lazer Z, the leading commercial zero-turn mower in the industry, along with the 96-inch diesel introduced 2 years ago,” says Lenny Mangnall, marketing product manager.


Branson Tractors 15 Series


The 15 Series from Branson Tractors features models in the 30-48 horsepower range. Functionality and features include 3 range/4 speed with shuttle transmissions; Hydro-Max with auto throttle acceleration; and a high capacity loader with skid steer attach bucket as standard (2,200 pound capacity at full height of 104 inches). “This is Branson Tractors’ economy series, but is still one of the heaviest tractors on the market,” says Jerry Campbell, Branson Tractors’ territory manager. 


Greenworks Top Handle Chain Saw


Coming in early 2020 from Greenworks Commercial is the 12-inch, 48-volt brushless top handle chain saw. The Greenworks 48TH comes standard with a 12-inch bar  and chain (optional 10 or 14 inches are also available). Weighing in at under 8 pounds (without battery), this chain saw delivers high torque with its powerful, brushless motor to quickly and safely navigate the canopy and manage cuts without multiple starting steps or having to leave the tree. “The new chain saw gives up to 150 cuts on one battery charge on 4-inch limbs and the battery offers the power and runtime arborists need,” says Chad Bishop of Greenworks Commercial’s product development team.


Dixie Chopper  XCaliber Zero-Turn Mower


Dixie Chopper displayed its XCaliber zero-turn mower, targeted at commercial landscapers and large property owners. The mowers are powered by a Kawasaki FX, Vanguard or Kohler EFI engine. Decks are available in 60-, 66- and 74-inch widths. The mowers also feature the Wind Tunnel design and industry-leading 2-inch blade overlap. The company was recently purchased by the Alamo Group and will operate under its RhinoAg division. “We have programs and pricing in place and parts, service and warranty are all up and running,” says Warren Evans, Dixie Chopper’s national sales manager.


Ferris Voyager Spreader/Sprayer


The new FS5250 Voyager Spreader/Sprayer from Ferris is designed for commercial areas, sports turf and large properties. The Voyager’s operator platform is cushioned by rubber isomers and simplified controls amplify comfort, helping the operator precisely apply product. The FS5250 features a stainless steel frame and runs on a 38-gross horsepower Vanguard V-Twin engine. It is equipped with a 250-pound capacity Ferris hopper and 80 gallons of liquid capacity, providing maximum coverage of up to 7.4 acres with liquid material. “The Voyager has more productivity and more capacity than any other product in this category,” says Matt Donohue, director of product management for Ferris. 


Bobcat Compact Tractors


Bobcat is re-entering the compact tractor market with 15 new models — ranging from 21-58 horsepower — across four transmission types. The tractors offers a tight turning radius of as little as 96.4 inches and several models also offer steering brakes. The Bobcat quick attach mounting system come standard across all platforms. Attachments include a front-end loader, backhoe and mid-mount mower and 10 implements will be available. “We’re excited to get back into this market supporting dealers and end users. We have a dedicated staff doing nothing but focusing on tractors,” says James Crouch, senior product manager for Bobcat’s compact tractors.