We sat down with James Crouch, senior product manager with Bobcat, and got his thoughts on key factors currently impacting the rural lifestyle market, some of the most innovative equipment that’s hit the market in the last 10 years and what he sees as the next big innovations to come in the next decade. He also shares his outlook for the outdoor power equipment market in 2021.
Rural Lifestyle Dealer: What key factors are currently driving buying habits in the market?
Crouch: Things have really changed in the last 18 months. When everyone started working from home, that opened opportunities. People weren’t traveling as much for work, so they have more time for recreational vehicles, compact tractors and chores. They wanted to get outside and be with family and were looking for products to help them do that. Sales for pontoon boats, tractors and UTVs have been high. Interest rates at an all-time low made them even more attractive. The circumstances created a different environment for us in the retail chain, and we don’t see that tapering off anytime soon.
RLD: What do you think has been the most innovative equipment advancement in the past 10 years?
Crouch: There are a lot of really interesting things out there. All the smart equipment is really amazing. Being able to operate the machine without being in it, standard telematics on compact equipment, being able to prevent theft, Bobcat Features on Demand — all of those things are really interesting. As the whole industry moves more toward autonomous equipment, it allows your machine to be more innovative, smarter and a better fit for your job.
RLD: What product innovation do you foresee in the next 10 years?
Crouch: From a commercial perspective, autonomy has a long way to go, but there is a lot of opportunity for remote fleet operation. On the consumer side, the push for electric vehicles in the auto industry has exploded. Electric in the compact tractor or skid loader industry is just starting to take shape. I can see the value to it. There’s a high barrier of entry into that segment, since it can be expensive to take off, but it’s not a permanent obstacle. People eventually figure out how to make things cost effective.
RLD: What is your outlook on the outdoor power equipment market for this year and beyond?
Crouch: It’s impossible to see what the market is going to be in 5 years, but this year and next year are likely going to be pretty good. We’re selling everything we can get our hands on so getting parts is becoming an issue. Maybe it will change in 2022, if gas prices get high and people start holding their money a little more or putting their money elsewhere. There’s a lot of growth left in this industry. There’s a transition right now of people moving out of the city centers onto a little land, and that opens up opportunities and demands for the market for years to come.
RLD: What keeps you up at night?
Crouch: The market exploded at lightning speed with COVID, and it could just as easily go the other way. No one could’ve prepared for it. It’s just something strange that could hit again that could negatively affect the industry. How do you prepare for something like that from a business and personal perspective?
[Video] Bobcat Enters Compact Tractor Market: James Crouch, senior product manager for Bobcat’s compact tractors, details the company's new tractor offerings, which range from from 21 to 58 horsepower — across four transmission types
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