As a great faceless monolithic Yankee corporation AGCO doesn’t really cut it, not because they are not large or dominant enough in their market or that they don’t try and indoctrinate us with a infuriating southern drawl in their AV presentations, but because, well, they are actually quite nice people, certainly on this side of the pond anyway. I can happily say this having had the opportunity to chat to some of their European management at their showcase event at the NEC this past week and although they carefully trod the corporate line I wondered if there was not some frustration within the ranks with regards to the great bogeyman that is Brussels.
Any self respecting company will seek to reassure their customers both present and potential, that they are investing in the future and AGCO are no different. We were treated to news of a $10m upgrade to the Massey Ferguson paint shop which follows the acquisition of new facilities for cab production in 2013 and so on, yet the figure that most stuck in my mind was the $25m set aside for research and development by the same company. At first glance this is worthy expenditure but when pressed it was admitted that a great part of this was spent on trying to meet ever more stringent emissions regulations from Brussels. To those who are unfamiliar with the genuinely noble crusade to clean up engine exhausts this probably sounds a good thing yet the latest standard, known as Tier 4, is such a vast improvement over the situation when legislation was first introduced that one wonders just how much further it can go and, more importantly, just what is the point of taking it any further? The European Parliament obviously thinks it is worthwhile to continue chasing this rabbit because it intends introducing a Tier 5 level sometime in the future but, as Richard Markwell (vice president and managing director of Europe, Africa and the Middle East) coyly admitted, they haven’t even decided where those standards are going to apply, let alone what they are actually going to be!
This leaves manufacturers somewhere between a rock and a hard place. On one hand they have to put aside funds to develop engines that cause less distress to the environment than a sparrow breaking wind whilst on the other they are expected to create new machines that are more efficient and effective in operation than those of last year. Diverting funds to satisfy arbitrary legislation rather than spending them on genuine improvements to tractor design would appear detrimental to both the advance of farming methods and even the environment itself for efficient farming will create less exhaust whatever its particle content.
Mr Markwell also confessed to representing AGCO on the manufacturers team of representatives in Brussels, so I wonder if he might not take a new message to the powers that be, one that argues for greater economy rather than the seemingly nonsensical pursuit of a now skeletal bunny.
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