Deere Gets the Wright Stuff

With a sharp eye on trends in the mower market, John Deere has decided it is time to give the stand-on mower product category another go. Deere dealers will soon offer customers a stand-on mower option and further strengthen John Deere’s presence in the commercial mower marketplace. It will all be achieved through the help of Wright Manufacturing and their proven design and technology.

“The stand-on product category is growing, so we see this as an opportunity to expand our presence with professional landscape contractors,” explains Chase Tew, John Deere product line marketing manager. “Stand-on mowers have gone from a secondary product for most landscapers to a core product because of the value that stand-on mowers bring to their fleets.”

Standing with Wright

When looking for a partner in their newest venture into stand-on mowers, John Deere turned to Wright Manufacturing. The manufacturer has recently entered into an arrangement with Deere & Company to design and manufacture stand-on mowers that use Wright’s patented technology and carry the John Deere logo and branding.

Wright has proven very successful in the stand-on market. They believe that partnering with John Deere will only make them stronger and more successful.

“There are many mutual benefits with this agreement,” says Bill Wright of Wright Manufacturing. “We’re combining the best of both worlds with Wright’s innovation and speed-to-market, and combining it with the enhanced quality and manufacturing processes from John Deere. These things together will make us a stronger company over time.”

Wright trusts that their dealers will also have something to gain. They claim Wright dealers will see improvements to manufacturing and increased popularity in the stand-on market.

“Wright dealers will benefit from our increased investment in production capability, combined with John Deere’s support for enhanced quality and manufacturing processes,” says Wright. “I believe most Wright dealers will generate even more sales as the agreement facilitates increased use of our top-of-class technology.”

How will dealers deal?

Both manufacturers have high hopes for the partnership. As they communicate the partnership details to their supplier channel and dealers, they have been met with both optimism and skepticism.

“John Deere dealers are excited to sell an industry-leading design that’s enhanced by our quality and production standards,” says Tew.

John Deere continues to receive positive feedback from their dealers as they spread news of the new product. It is up to the qualifying dealer if they want to offer the QuikTrak stand-on units.

“John Deere is poised to have the widest portfolio of commercial mowing equipment in the industry,” says Tew. “Our new QuikTrak stand-on mowers will only enhance the value proposition for our dealers and demonstrate our commitment to the landscape industry.”

Wright communicated the partnership with their dealers through a press release, and met with their U.S.-based regional distributors to inform them on the facts of the agreement. Distributors were then equipped to communicate those shared facts with dealers.

“All of our distributors wanted to convey these facts themselves to their respective independent Wright dealers,” explains Wright. “We’ve since had conversations with a number of those dealers. The feedback has ranged from concerns over occasional dealer proximity to hearty congratulations to us and optimism for Wright’s and their (the dealers’) future.”

Dealers have varied opinions on the partnership. Many are skeptical of the security of a partnership with Deere, and fear the near-identical mowers will saturate their territories. On the other hand, some dealers feel it’s just business and nothing personal.

“I have seen it before and I don’t like it. But I am also a business person that understands they are going to do whatever they think makes them a better company,” one dealer empathizes.

While dealers are cautious about the partnership, they all stand by the Wright stand-on mower as being a quality product they are proud to carry and will continue to support.
“We won’t give them up just yet. We love Wright,” said one dealer. “They make the finest stand-on mower on the market and hold the patents for everything that is good about it.”
Parts and support

With the additional production demands, Wright will be making investments in capabilities to ensure uninterrupted distribution of the Wright and Deere brands. That may put some dealers at ease. One we spoke with had fears specifically about supply problems, saying: “This year we have had problems getting some Wright products and parts. This alliance surely won’t make things better.” Wright claims their actions will prevent any issues.

“We will continue to use our existing supply base, and expand our in-house capabilities for captive parts,” explains Wright. “Everyone involved should expect to be delighted with the delivery and availability of service parts since both companies consider parts supply a top priority.”

Since the agreement only covers the design and manufacturing of the mowers, it is expected that each company will handle the distribution of their respective brands.
The year 2013 will prove to be an especially interesting one for Deere, Wright and dealers alike. Time will tell how the new arrangement will pan out. Dealers will certainly be waiting to see how the partnership is handled and where the manufacturers’ loyalties lie.

“It’s disturbing how manufacturers and distributors want the dealer to be loyal even though it is perfectly OK for them to do as they please,” says one dealer. “This year it is John Deere manufactured by Wright. Next year will it be Wright manufactured by John Deere? I will keep this in mind when the booking program comes.”

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