Update 11/2/16: On Monday, Toro announced to its dealers that it is discontinuing production of its side-by-side utility vehicle.

Unlike other years when the product introductions at GIE+Expo had a dominant theme, like the “year of the UTV” several years ago — which actually stretched over several years — the 2016 show was a mash-up of launches. That’s good news for dealers as lineups continue to deepen, get a “refresh” or incorporate more technology.

Rural Lifestyle Dealer had a crew canvassing the more than 80,000 square feet of indoor exhibit space and 20 acres of outdoor demonstration areas and here are some of the highlights.

Entering the Market

Yardmax recently began U.S. operations and exhibited for the first time at GIE its outdoor power equipment. Yardmax was among a group of manufacturers this year promoting value-based pricing. Yardmax products are being sold online and through a mid-box retailer, but the company is building a dealer network now.

Greenworks is another company building a dealer network. It sells its consumer products online and through Big Box retailers. At the show, the company, in which STIHL has acquired a substantial minority share, introduced its new commercial battery-powered lineup.

Construction giant Caterpillar is entering the OPE market with its new RP series of portable generators. And, Spartan Mowers, a newcomer to GIE last year, returned to show off its expanding lineup.

Expanding Battery Lineups

Battery technology continues to improve and this year, major OPE manufacturers introduced new products targeted to the consumer market. Husqvarna introduced its 100 and 300 Series products (chainsaws, trimmers, hedgers and blowers), with its instant-start technology and bundle packages.

STIHL announced its new AK and AI Systems of battery-powered outdoor power equipment, an addition to its existing AP System (commercial units) — all now comprising the STIHL Lightning Battery Systems. Affordability was a key message for these powerful and lightweight tools.

Finding UTV Niches

The UTV segment continues to diversify as manufacturers look to establish their niche within this popular segment. For instance, American Landmaster, a recent re-branding of American Sportworks, touts its vehicle line-up as utilitarian and cost-competitive.

Hustler says it is creating its own class with its MDV (Medium Duty Vehicle) and its LevelLift technology, for loading at ground level or at any point along the loading mechanism’s arc.

In contrast, Exmark, who had showed off an early version of their UTVs, has discontinued its offerings.

Improving Zero-Turns

Zero-turns are a staple of the show and several manufacturers promoted “value” designs for reaching consumers.

Toro’s new line of Titan HD zero-turn mowers are targeted at acreage owners and value-minded landscape contractors and feature brackets for mounting yard tools.

 Exmark says its new Radius series gives landscapers a new value-oriented design and lower cost of ownership and is targeting the mower for the consumer market as well.

Kubota’s new Z400 series, which they call the Kommander Pro, bridges the gap between its residential Kommander series and its larger commercial Z700 series.

 Commercial cutters received their fair share of attention from manufacturers. Cub Cadet’s new Pro Z offers more power, strengthened designs and additional comfort features. Altoz showed off its TRX, the industry’s first tracked zero-turn mower. And, Gravely recently announced its new partnership with Yamaha and says it’s the first to incorporate Yamaha’s V-Twin EFI engines for the OPE industry, which will be available on its Pro-Turn 200 and 400 lines.

 Dixie Chopper is extending its image for its zero-turn and touted the styling features of its new BlackHawk machine, along with its keyless start.

Filling the Gap in Tractor Models

Tractor manufacturers introduced models up and down the horsepower range, filling in lineups.

Kioti introduced higher horsepower model with its new 93, 103 and 110 horsepower models in its PX line. Yanmar showed off its YT 347 at 46 horsepower and YT 359 at 58.9 horsepower, increasing its horsepower models.

Filling in lower horsepower options were Kubota and TYM. Kubota’s new BX series of subcompact tractors has 18-, 23-, and 25.5-horsepower models. TYM also introduced its subcompact tractor, the 19 horsepower T184.

John Deere added a 25-horsepower model to its 3E series of compact utility tractors.

Adding Power, Efficiency

Serviceability, power and efficiency are constant themes for engines and manufacturers highlighted what sets them apart from the crowd.

Kawasaki’s new FX850V-EFI engine features an integrated electronic governor, which continually adjusts power, saving fuel.

Briggs & Stratton’s new Vanguard Oil Guard System for its 810 and Big Block engines offers design features that allows commercial mowers to be operated for 500 hours between oil changes.

Kohler’s newly modified Aegis engine features its EFI technology and liquid-cooled design for optimal fuel efficient and power.

With over 900 exhibitors, we were flooded with model numbers, specs and features. However, there were a few other “sideline” trends that stood out.

  • Robotics: What might have been considered a gimmick a few years ago is transitioning to reality. Husqvana’s Automower now offers three models. Robomow recently made its debut in the U.S. and is seeking dealers. And, the Kobi, which is now in beta trials, has attachments for mowing and snow and leaf blowing.
  • Voice of the Customer: Manufacturers have always turned to operators for feedback, but now companies like Cub Cadet and Kawasaki are promoting it in marketing promotions.
  • Legacy: In the midst of new and shiny from 900 exhibitors, several manufacturers highlighted their legacy in the industry. For instance, Wright Manufacturing showed off the prototype for its stand-on mower and Kohler showed off the generator Admiral Richard Byrd used during his 1929 expedition to the South Pole.

We have lots of exclusive videos we’ll post from the show over the next few weeks, so check back often. And, if you attended the show, share comments on what stood out for you.