Manufacturers continue to expand on their battery-powered products for the commercial and pro-sumer market, including STIHL which announced its enhanced Lightning Battery Systems at the recent GIE+Expo. I talked with STIHL President Bjoern Fischer about the company’s long-term plans.

“We want to be able to offer customers choices, whether they want battery or gasoline-powered equipment. A big opportunity going forward is to enable our servicing dealers to offer the additional product ranges we unveiled at the show,” says Fischer.

Fischer highlights the new AI (homeowner) and AK (small property owner) series of outdoor power equipment, which now complement the existing AP series (commercial). All three make up the Lightning line.

STIHL’s future product development is solidly focused on gas as well, Fischer says. The company also introduced its new range of gasoline-powered pressure washers. “This shows a continued commitment on the gasoline side of the business. Between now and 2020, we will bring out 50 additional variety of gasoline products. We’re investing heavily on the gasoline side of the business,” Fischer says. He says the development will be on the entire range of gasoline-powered products for both commercial customers and consumers.

Fischer says STIHL remains committed to the independent dealer. “Our servicing dealers have grown faster than the Big Boxes and are taking market share away from the Big Boxes.”

What about the inline competition that STIHL dealers face? “What we’ve found where we’ve set up dealers in relative proximity to each other is that both are growing. What happens is that the recognition of the STIHL brand in the whole region increases. We tell our dealers that when we set up another location ‘Have a look. Let’s talk again after a year.’ At the end of the day, they start recognizing and appreciating that it helps support the brand and it leads more customers into their dealership.”

Fischer says they’ll continue to support dealers with their iCademy training and Master Wrench service programs, along with retail solutions, such as new display modules and the STIHL Edge digital showroom sales tool. “We started piloting STIHL Edge about a year ago and have been receiving excellent reviews,” he says. The displays and digital tools help customers find the right unit for their job, Fischer says.

Each year after GIE, I wonder about the possible overload that dealers face in terms of selling and supporting yet even more product lines. Some customers may come in with a preference of gasoline-powered vs. battery-powered, but how many others look to you to help them narrow down the options?

Too much information — like too little information — can lead to indecision and a lost sale. Intuitive retail environments that help guide a decision and salespeople who continue to hone their skills at reading customers continue to be a critical differentiator for successful dealerships.

View a video of the gasoline-powered pressure washers being introduced at GIE. View Rural Lifestyle Dealer’s expanded coverage of the show.