New Versatile Kubota tractor in production

Rumours that have been swirling for five years can finally be put to rest. Yes, Versatile and Kubota are jointly building an all-new tractor to be marketed in both colours.

Both companies made announcements in mid-March, briefly outlining the design of the new machine and the OEM manufacturing agreement. Although the rumour mill has been grinding out reports that Kubota is buying Versatile, the fact is that the arrangement is a business deal, for now at least, wherein Versatile builds tractors for Kubota, said Versatile’s Adam Reid.

Versatile will market the new tractor as the Nemesis in Versatile red and yellow, while Kubota will market the M7 (or M8) series twin to the Nemesis in traditional Kubota orange. The tractor is powered by a Cummins Stage V compliant QSB 6.7 litre engine. Power travels through a ZF fully electronic powershift transmission. The Nemesis is available in three models with 175, 195 or 210 horsepower. Future models will include a ZF CVT transmission and expanded engine options up to 250 h.p.

“If you had two of them side-by-side, you would be able to see that there are differences. I will say that mechanically, they are very similar,” said Reid.

Kubota wants to become a major player in broad-acre farming. To do so, it must have a line of appropriate equipment, which means bigger than what it has now. It makes more sense to buy into broad-acre implement manufacturers than to set up a new engineering team and start from scratch.

The purchase of Kvernaland high-end haying equipment follows that line of logic. Similarly, its purchase of Great Plains equipment of Kansas meant Kubota finally has big tillage and seeding tools, but it lacks tractors big enough to run them.

The move from horticulture and yard equipment to bigger, broadacre farm machinery is part of a deliberate strategy, said Kubota’s Don McClughan during an interview last summer at Saskatoon’s Ag In Motion show.

“Kubota is taking the stance that we want to become more involved in dryland farming, so we’re introducing new machines in the hay lineup and the large tractor category, where we now have tractors up to 170 horsepower. This will not continue to be our highest horsepower tractor,” McClughan said.

The top end of the Kubota tractor and implement lineup meets the bottom end of the Versatile lineup. This new relationship could potentially offer producers on the Northern Great Plains virtually any machine they might need. In an effort to penetrate the North American larger tractor market, large tractors customized exclusively for Kubota, will be introduced to the United States and Canada from the second half of 2019.

There’s no telling where the Versatile-Kubota arrangement will lead. One observer pointed out that many leading diesel engine manufacturers build agricultural and construction equipment merely as a means to sell more of their engines. Versatile buys their engines from Cummins, and for now at least, the new Kubota model will be fitted with a Cummins.

But what kind of sense does it make for Kubota to dish out cash buying Cummins diesels when it builds diesel motors itself? A clue may have been dropped during an April 12 phone interview with Yannick Montaganos, vice-president of sales and marketing for Kubota Canada.

“Kubota is very well known within the industry for being an excellent manufacturer of diesel engines. One could say it would make sense, but I cannot comment further,” said Montaganos.

Reid added: “We’ve held strongly to the Versatile tradition of buying only the best components from industry leading suppliers. The market in front-wheel assist tractors like this is very competitive here in North America and in Europe. We’ve designed the tractor to meet global standards.”

Reid said the Nemesis has features lacking on the Versatile big row-crop tractors, such as front three-point hitch and front power take-off. He says it will fit areas of North America where they don’t have a presence and also Europe.

“The Nemesis still carries the Versatile hallmark of a simple machine, easy to use, easy to maintain.”

On the topic of brakes, Reid conceded that although the tractor may be heading to Europe someday, the North American version does not have the advanced braking system required by European standards.

“The tractor has been developed so those (European) standards can be met if and when we decide to export it to Europe.”

Reid confirmed that the new platform was designed from the ground up. Development began nearly five years ago. Under the terms of the long-term agreement, Buhler Industries will manufacture this tractor at the factory in Winnipeg.

Production in both paint colours began this winter. The first public showing of the Nemesis is expected to be at Ag In Motion in July.

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