As the year comes to a close, Rural Lifestyle Dealer has compiled the top articles from each month of 2020. Take a look at what stories were trending on in April 2020.

1. Consumer Reports: Most and Least Reliable Lawn Tractor Brands

In Consumer Reports’ latest survey of 11,217 subscribers, John Deere takes the top prize as the most reliable brand of lawn tractors and among the more reliable zero-turn-radius mowers. And reliability is key — in our fix-it surveys, readers told us that they're more likely to repair lawn tractors and ZTRs than any other products we ask about, even such big-ticket major appliances as washing machines and refrigerators.

But while several John Deere models, including the John Deere X350-42, $3,200, and the John Deere S240-42 Sport, $2,500, top our riding mower tests, they tend to be pricey, and you'll sacrifice a bit of performance if you zero in on a John Deere ZTR. So how heavily should you weigh reliability when deciding on the best riding mower for your property? Consider these key findings.

2. Husqvarna Names Robert McCutcheon as New President of North American Division

Husqvarna, a global leader in the outdoor power equipment industry, announced the appointment of Robert M. McCutcheon as President of North America for Husqvarna Division, effective June 1, 2020.

Prior to joining Husqvarna North America, McCutcheon served as President and Managing Director of the Americas for Britax Child Safety Inc. in Fort Mill, S.C. Bringing over 23 years of experience and expertise in consumer products, he has led successful business growth initiatives through innovation, marketing, and operational excellence. McCutcheon’s background includes positions with Conagra Brands, Walmart, and Britax.

  1. Download this 'Safe Passage Letter' from WEDA

As more and more dealerships find themselves covered by executive orders issued by cities, counties, and states that require citizens to “shelter in place,” dealers will need to assess whether they qualify as “essential businesses,” “exempt businesses” or similar terms that allow their employees to travel and continue to report to work.  

For dealers in jurisdictions that qualify as essential or exempt businesses, we have prepared a “safe passage” letter for dealers to provide to their essential employees who will be asked to continue working in dealership facilities in locations that are covered by these orders. Most locales have stated they do not foresee aggressively enforcing these orders by pulling over vehicles or the like, but our concern is that enforcement may tighten up if the COVID-19 spread continues and businesses are too aggressive in how they conclude what is “essential.” 

4. Lastec Introduces World's Biggest Zero Turn Mower

Lastec introduces the world’s biggest zero turn mower with the 120” cutting width WZ1000 flex deck commercial zero turn mower. The WZ1000 joins the Lastec range of commercial and golf course mowers known throughout the world for a premium quality of cut with independently flexing decks. Built in the USA and starting at $48,900 USD, the WZ1000 provides up to 8.73 acres/hour coverage to fit the wide area production needs of commercial landscapers, lawn care professionals, sports fields, and golf courses.

Featuring a massive 120 inch cutting width, five 25 inch flex decks, and zero turn maneuverability, the Lastec WZ1000 commercial zero turn mower cuts with the accuracy of five small push mowers at the speed and production of a zero turn wide area mower. The WZ1000 includes five independently flexing decks with up to 24 degrees of total up/down motion for superior cut quality in even the most challenging contours and valleys.

5. Deere Begins Production of Protective Face Shields for Health-Care Workers

John Deere, in collaboration with the UAW, the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and the Illinois Manufacturers’ Assn., announced  it is producing protective face shields at John Deere Seeding Group in Moline, Ill. Deere employees will initially produce 25,000 face shields to meet the immediate needs of health-care workers in several of its U.S. manufacturing communities.

Materials and supplies are on order to produce an additional 200,000 face shields. The company is using an open-source design from the University of Wisconsin-Madison for the project and leveraging expertise, skills and innovation of its employee base.   

6. 10 Sales Email Subject Lines To Get An Open, Read and Reply

Many sales trainers talk about the “good ole days” before email when the phone was your weapon of choice. Many even suggest that email has ruined the sales process. I could NOT disagree more. In my sales training workshops, I teach that email is an amazing piece of technology. If used in the right way, it can truly help the sales professional win and grow business. 

Before we get into the best sales subject lines for email success, please allow me to offer three pieces of email sales advice. 

7. Wickham Tractor: Agricultural Roots, Ruralpolitan Ambitions

Wickham Tractor Co. (WTC) was built on tractors, planters, hay balers and a sizable feed supply business. Those agricultural roots remain, although the fourth-generation dealership is also looking to other market segments to fuel its growth along the Front Range of Colorado.

The expansion into new markets started in 2007 when the longtime Case IH dealership added the Kubota line. Over the past 5 years, WTC has branched into powersports, further broadening its appeal with contractors and consumers.

8. Millennials Share Their Roles in a Family Dealership

Officially, millennials are those who were born between 1981 and 1996. Unofficially, there are many opinions about the characteristics, other than age, that define this generation — generalities for which millennials Jennifer Gott and Whitney Kirby have their own opinions. Gott and Kirby, who are cousins, are part of the fourth generation of Killians of Hickory, North Carolina.

Gott, who is 33, is the daughter of Sharon Killian Radke, and Kirby, who is 25, is the daughter of Susan Killian Kirby. Radke and Kirby are sisters who took over the dealership in 1997 after their father Elmer died.

9. Dealer How-To: How Stovesand Equipment Became a Top Selling Dealer in 2 Years

Larry Stovesand is an auto dealer, who was urged by Mike Schramke, a former car salesman of his and now business partner, to open a tractor dealership in 2015. Schramke says that focusing only on the KIOTI line has led to its fast success, including earning the top U.S. sales award from KIOTI Tractor in 2017.

Neither Stovesand nor Schramke had previous experience with tractors, but recognized a good business opportunity. Schramke had worked for Stovesand for many years at one of his auto dealerships and later handled sales at a tractor dealership.

10. What Should be Next for the Dixie Chopper Brand?

The zero-turn mower line that started in Art Evans’ barn near Greencastle, Ind., in 1980, grew to a network of 300 dealers, claimed the title of world’s fastest lawn mower, and was purchased by Jacobsen/Textron in 2014, came to an end in early December due to “market pressure and a change in the economic circumstances of the business,” according to a memo to dealers.

The news surprised many. Early speculation on the employee layoffs at the Coatesville, Ind., manufacturing facility was that Textron would build the mowers elsewhere. Dealers were among those caught by surprise as news about production ceasing made its way through the network.