Three trends emerged as the Rural Lifestyle Dealer team walked the 500,000 square feet of indoor space and 19 acres of outdoor exhibits at the recent 2014 GIE+Expo:
- Rural Lifestyle Dealer Manufacturers continue to incorporate technology to improve fuel efficiency, serviceability and functionality
- The introduction of equipment for new segments is part of the “one stop shop” strategy for many manufacturers
- UTVs are the “hot ticket” item, with equipment manufacturers partnering with established UTV manufacturers to add the vehicles to their offerings for spring
New technologies for mowers included Hustler’s new flip-up feature for its Raptor zero-turn mower, a patent pending push button deck lift feature. The deck can be raised in 22 seconds and doesn’t require removing the deck belt. John Deere announced its new Michelin X Tweel Turf for its commercial ZTrak mowers, an airless radial tire with automotive rubber technology that is expected to be nearly maintenance free in terms of flat tires and lasts 3 times longer than standard turf tires. Grasshopper showed off its new HighLift collector for its PowerVac collection system, which raises 72 inches high and 34 inches behind the power unit to empty debris into pickup beds or onto compost piles.
And, even more technology: Cub Cadet demonstrated its Bluetooth application for its XT Enduro series of lawn tractors that alerts owners about maintenance. Stihl unveiled its “concept saw” that utilizes materials such as carbon fiber, titanium and refined die cast magnesium and fuel injection technology. The saw will be used for development and testing purposes. And, Hydro-Gear, manufacturers of electronic actuators and drive modules, showed off technology that could lead to remote-controlled mowers.
Electronic fuel injection technology continues to influence new engine introductions with Briggs & Stratton, Kawasaki and Kohler introducing new EFI engines. The Briggs’ model is its Vanguard 810cc engine series (24-29 horsepower). Kawasaki’s FS730V, 25.5 horsepower engine is its first in the category. Kohler introduced its Command Pro 824cc engine (27-33 horsepower).
Those manufacturers with entries into new segments included Billy Goat with its new Plugr brand of aerators, allowing the company to expand beyond its traditional fall clean-up products. And, just after the show, Toro announced its acquisition of the BOSS snow and ice management business from Northern Star Industries.
UTVs are the big push in reaching new segments. Ariens is branding a new category with its Atlas JSV (job site vehicle) that it developed with Polaris. Exmark and Toro unveiled their new UTV model in partnership with Arctic Cat. Polaris also expanded its GEM line of transport and light utility vehicles. Show officials say the category is becoming so dominant that it may warrant its own presence, similar to the Hardscape North America component of the Expo.
Other “notables” from the Expo included Dixie Chopper’s new Pursuit walk behind mowers — part of a resurgence after the company’s recent acquisition by Textron. Also, propane-powered mowers, which made a big entry a few years ago, are now most popular in states with emission regulations or in “green” communities. The Propane Education and Research Council promoted its new increased incentives for landscapers along with its mobile application for cost calculations.
The show was big, the excitement was high and the competition for rural lifestyle and turf customers is intense. Check out more new and enhanced product introductions on our website, www.rurallifestyldealer.com. Check back often as we’ll continue to update our coverage with dozens of video interviews.