Farmer Iron
Equipment sales remain in the doldrums

Equipment sales remain in the doldrums

The compact segment chugs along, but for bigger machines the news is a little different.

I try regularly to check out the Association of Equipment Manufacturers monthly look at farm equipment statistics. This is a report I've been looking at since the 1980s when the ag portion of the group was known as the Farm and Industrial Equipment Institute (really). It's an enlightening report and offers a pretty public view of how things are going in the world of tractor and combine sales - the bread and butter for major equipment makers.

THANK YOU LITTLE TRACTORS: Machinery sales figures remain above the five-year average, but that's due mainly to sales of compact tractors.

Earlier this the May stats came out, and soon after Deere & Co. announced it was lowering its fiscal outlook for the current year, cutting full-year net income by about $100 million, thought full-year sales will decline a little less than expected. CNH Industrial saw soft numbers on its latest quarterly report - yet analysts following both companies have their stock on "hold" versus sell, which you might expect in a soft market according to one market following website. As for Agco, which has seen its stock rise, even with a slumping North American market, is also considered as a "hold" stock as well by analysts.

In essence, even with soft sales, legacy farm equipment players are apparently a safe haven for stock holders for now. Perhaps part of that is their continued commitment to the market and investment in innovations for the future (but that's just a guess on this blogger's part).

Yet it's also good to keep these facts in mind when you look at monthly equipment stats from AEM. Basically April was a tough month - unless you sell small tractors. And while all the majors do, those smaller machines can't carry all the weight. Yet in the under-40 hp market sales rose 7.8% for April (compared to April 2015) and up 17.9% through April when compared to the same period a year ago.

The only thing I noticed when looking at the stats is that the under-40 market sold just over 16,500 machines yet has just over 83,000 in beginning inventory for April - that's a five-month supply of machines sitting on dealer lots. With sales chugging along that shouldn't be a burden, but inventory numbers are something to watch.

After the under-40 stats, the picture darkens a bit. The 40 to 100 hp segment slipped 15.3% for the month (compared to last year) and is down 3.2% for the January through April period compared to a year ago. In this case inventories have crept up to about 8 months of machines on hand, which may be an opportunity for those in the market for a new machine.

For over-100 hp tractors sales are off 16% for the month - and remember we're comparing April to April year over year. Last year planting was clipping right along, and we've still seen a sales slide this year. Year over year - for the January to April period - shows sales off 28.1%. Inventories are a little tighter here though with about 5 months of machines on hand.

In the case of four-wheel drive machines - we're talking articulated machines, not machines with mechanical front drives - sales slid 10.4% in April and are off 31.5% for the year so far. Inventories, however, are much tighter with a little over 3 months' supply on hand.

And finally, combines - here sales were off 45.5% in April, and off 26% so far this year. Inventories here are less than 3 months, the machinery companies have really clamped down on production.

Obviously, sales are soft, and you may not be in a buying mood, but sometimes the best deals are to be had when the market is soft (if your balance sheet can stand it). As you look at your probably now-delayed equipment buying plan, cherry picking a few items to fill in gaps may be a good idea.

We'll keep following the market, note in the graphic I included with this, however, that 2016 is still above the five-year average. That is solely driven by the push in under-40 hp machines, but shows that we're in a market slump, but still beating the averages.

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