Dealers and landscapers scoped out the new equipment from more than 750 indoor and outdoor exhibitors at the recent GIE+Expo in Louisville, Ky., Oct. 23-25. Here’s a theme that stood out for me this year: The line between consumer and commercial equipment continues to blur — with consumer equipment getting bigger — and improved technology is pumping up performance and ease of use.
For instance, Hustler introduced the Raptor SD, a larger version of its Raptor mower that it introduced last year. Hustler says it “bridges the gap between the entry level zero-turn and the prosumer zero-turn markets.”
Briggs & Stratton headed the same direction with its new Snapper 550Z with a 61-inch deck and 24 or 25 horsepower engine options. The company promotes its “prosumer” price points, with a starting price of $4,999.
Kubota expanded on the consumer zero-turn mower it introduced last year, the Kommander. Its new Z700-series commercial zero turn offers 48-inch, 54-inch and 60-inch decks. Price was also touted as a selling point, with $7,799 as the starting promotional price.
Innovations added to existing machines targeted problems areas on each end of the market. Exmark’s UltraCut rear-discharge deck is now available for its Lazer Z S-Series zero-turn mowers. The deck offers discharge control, reduced noise and the ability to trim on both sides of the deck.
Toro addressed cluttered garage issues with its new Recycler consumer walk-behind mower with SmartStow feature. This feature, which relies on an exclusive Briggs & Stratton engine, can be stored vertically, reducing the storage footprint by up to 70%.
Cub Cadet showed off its RZT S Zero, introduced earlier this year, promoted as easier to use for zero-turn novices. Popular Mechanics recently recognized the electric-powered zero turn with steering wheel control and four-wheel steering with a Breakthrough Award.
New performance-boosting technology for mowers and hand-held equipment was also on display. For instance, zero-turn newcomer Altoz features a SmarTrak Monitoring System on its XC Z line. The system has built-in maintenance reminders, a digital RPM gauge, alarm protection and an on-board clock.
Stihl introduced its M-Tronic microprocessor-controlled engine management system for its MS 441 C-M chain saw and its FS 460 C-EM brushcutter/clearing saw. Stihl says the technology optimizes engine performance and compensates for changes in operating conditions, such as temperature, elevation, fuel quality or a dirty air filter.
Husqvarna introduces its SmartSwitch for its RZ series zero turns and GT series of garden tractors. The technology offers one-touch starting, real-time feedback and keyless security to its riding mowers.
Ariens debuted its auto-turn steering technology for its Sno-Thro snow blowers. Operators can change direction without adjusting the speed or engaging triggers or levers.
Technology also extended to equipment with fuel alternative options. John Deere introduced its dealer-installed propane kit for its ZTrack zero-turn, QuikTrak stand-on mowers and commercial walk-behind mowers. The kit is from EnviroGard.
Generac debuted its propane-fueled LP5500 portable generator that allows the LP fuel tank to ride within the chassis itself. The generator has a PowerDial that integrates the starting and operating controls into a single mechanism.
What else? There was lots of talk about enhanced styling, fabricated vs. stamped decks and battery-powered equipment with longer run times. Manufacturers, including Briggs, Exmark and Toro, touted enhanced dealer portals. “The last thing we want is to launch a new product and to have dealers not be able to explain it,” says Todd Teske, Briggs & Stratton president and CEO.
Now, you tell me. What new equipment or technology will help you increase sales in 2014? Share your comments below.