Hustler Turf Equipment, an Excel Industries brand, launched a new product this spring for the more price-conscious consumer. The Raptor is an entry-level zero-turn riding mower with a suggested retail price just shy of $3,000.
This mower helps Hustler servicing dealers reach a specific segment of the consumer market that perhaps can’t afford a $5,000 or $6,000 zero-turn mower. Hustler distributor Dale Brackman says this is definitely prevalent in his region.
Mississippi and Louisiana are among the “poorest” states in the country (in terms of median income). “A good mower that’s priced on the lower end of the scale is going to do pretty well down here,” Brackman says. “Now, a commercial cutter wouldn’t even consider this mower because it’s just not made for commercial purposes; the deck is not reinforced, the frame is bolted together, for example. But it’s well-designed for residential use.”
Brackman is the owner of B&B Distributing based in Hattiesburg, MS. B&B distributes lawn equipment to independent servicing dealers in Mississippi and Louisiana.
Louisiana dealer says it’s a market match. Gautreaux’s Lawn & Garden in Gonzales, LA, is one Hustler servicing dealer that has had early success in selling the Raptor. Owner Shane Gautreaux had some initial concerns, but they’ve since been put to rest. “I was excited about having a unit for less than $3,000, but had my concerns over how much quality we had to give up to get there. Excel (Hustler) has done a great job keeping the Hustler quality while making a very affordable zero-turn mower.”
Shane says the Raptor’s fabricated deck and handling are what set it apart. He also sells Toro consumer-grade zero-turn mowers. A Toro TimeCutter with a fabricated deck sells for about $800 more than a similarly sized Raptor with the same Kawasaki engine (based on suggested retail pricing, though pricing does vary by dealership).
The fabricated deck and Kawasaki engine are exciting customers the most, Shane adds. “And once customers get their (Raptors) home, we’ve had great responses about cut quality.”
Who’s buying them? Thus far, the typical purchaser of a Raptor mower has been a homeowner with just under an acre of grass to mow. “We see more people buying these to mow in subdivisions,” Shane relates. “People just don’t have the time or energy to use walk mowers any longer. With 0% for 48 months (financing), you’re looking at about $65/month—so it makes sense.”
Any service issues? It’s still a little early to tell, but thus far Shane hasn’t had any customers who’ve experienced performance or service issues. “Time will tell,” Shane points out, “but many times with a new product you’ll have initial growing pains. But the Raptor seems to be avoiding those.”