Popular tractor brand planning to grow market share
11th July 2022
Zetor has enjoyed a reputation for manufacturing reliable and cost-effective tractors for many years, and now the manufacturer’s wholly owned Zetor UK operation is benefitting from sustained investment to boost the brand and further increase sales. David Williams reports.
Zetor tractors are manufactured in the Czech Republic, and the range includes models from 15–171hp. The brand enjoys a loyal following by customers mainly in livestock farming areas of the UK, where a straightforward, reliable specification and a traditionally lower cost price than many competitors has added to the tractors’ appeal.
“Zetor tractors have evolved and improved, and we offer tractors with similar specification and performance to many of our better-known mainline competitors, but that has also meant that our prices have risen so we operate on a more even playing field,” explained Zetor UK managing director Nigel Wilson. “Our prices remain competitive, but with less difference than before our customers are selecting Zetor for the features and comfort, as well as for the dependable back-up from the Zetor UK team and the network of specialist dealers.”
Range of sizes and specs
The range includes compact tractors from 15hp, but the main agricultural models are in the larger Major, Proxima, Forterra and Crystal series with power ratings from 70–171hp.
Major and Crystal models are powered by Deutz engines, and the rest have Zetor’s own power units.
More than 65% of the tractors are supplied with front loaders, reflecting the main demand for use on livestock and mixed farms.
Proxima models with engines from 75–117hp include three specification levels. Base CL versions are up to 110hp with a 12×12 transmission with six gears in two ranges, and the top HS specification includes models up to 117hp with a 24×24 three-range powershift gearbox operated through buttons on the gearstick, and clutchless forward and reverse shutting. HS Premium models also come with electric linkage controls on the external mudguards as standard which are seen as a big advantage for users, and one in three Proxima tractors sold is of the higher specification.
The Proxima CL110 has a 107hp engine, a 40kph transmission, a six-speed transmission and mechanical forward and reverse shuttle, and the large, comfortable cab and generous specification meant it was Zetor UK’s best seller last year – accounting for 32% of the tractors sold.
“Anyone can jump in and drive it,” explained Zetor UK area sales manager for northern England and Scotland, Hamish Watson. “The controls are well laid out and easy to use. When potential users try it they are very impressed and it has all the essential features they need including excellent visibility, a comfortable cab, powerful brakes and excellent manoeuvrability.”
Loaders stocked too
Because so many Zetor tractors are supplied with loaders, large stocks are kept in the UK. Premium TracLift loaders are popular for Proxima and Forterra models and feature enclosed pipework which reduces the risk of damage and avoids obstructing the operator’s view. Metal-Fach loaders are a cost-effective option usually selected for Major models.
The Major CL80 has a 75hp Deutz engine and comes with 12-speed transmission through four gears and three ranges. At the Royal Highland Show, a new Lux version was displayed – with air conditioning included as standard, an enhanced cab interior, a full-sized passenger seat, an upgraded driver’s seat, a tilting steering column, and increased in-cab storage. “A powershift transmission would be a nice additional feature,” continued Nigel, “but we have a more efficient direct-drive system which transfers all the power to the wheels. It’s simple and reliable, and for most of our customers the tractor offers everything they need.”
Higher horsepower Forterra
The Forterra comes in a range of three specifications and includes models from 95–147hp. The Forterra CL140 is the most powerful tractor available currently with a dry clutch – which Nigel explained is an advantage for yard tasks such as working with a diet feeder. “The dry clutch provides ultimate control for inching and is superb for loader work,” he stressed. “The tractor also has powerful lights, a spacious cab and a quality dashboard and controls.”
Zetor’s six-pillar cab design is popular with operators, explained Hamish. Having separate rear side windows means the doors weigh less and are a ‘normal’ size, so opening them in confined areas isn’t a problem. Both rear windows open too – which is an advantage as it allows operators to hear what is going on around them, including other workers and the implement and without opening the large rear window.”
A cab roof window is standard on all Forterra models allowing an excellent view of the load or attachment when the loader is at maximum height. A handy air compressor is also standard as well as a push-out trailer hitch, and Nigel said the only additional option selected by a significant number of buyers is a front hydraulic linkage.
Latest Forterra models feature new Zetor family styling which includes a one-piece bonnet which appeared first on Major models in 2020.
Flagship Crystal HD
The flagship Crystal HD 170 has a six-cyl, 6.1-litre engine and a 30×30 pEco owershift transmission. An electro-hydraulic power shuttle provides smooth forward and reverse shunting performance. There are four PTO speeds including two eco modes, and the rear lift capacity is 8.5t, while up to 85 litres/min of hydraulic oil flow is available for rapid tipping of large trailers and driving hydraulic powered implements.
A visit to a Worcestershire dealer where the Zetor UK stock is stored provided an opportunity to test-drive the latest Forterra 150HD. The cab is well finished and spacious and the standard front axle and cab suspension ensures a good ride. It is quiet at all engine revs and travel speeds, and the transmission is smooth and easy to use. Automatic gear shifting allows the transmission management system to automatically change up and down the three speed ranges to suit the required speed and working load. Automatic eco mode means that the maximum 40kph is achieved at only 1,800rpm, saving fuel and reducing noise levels.
All around vision is excellent and the manoeuvrability is good.
Metal-Fach grassland machinery
As well as offering the Zetor tractor range, Zetor UK also stocks and supplies Metal-Fach grass harvesting machinery such as mowers, tedders, rakes and round balers. Nigel said the simple drum mowers are very competitively priced and in huge demand, and that the round balers have proved a successful investment with customers appreciating the low cost of ownership and excellent performance.
The round baler has 16 rollers and produces 4×4 round bales, and a belt baler will be available for next year offering greater versatility, in chopper and non-chopper variants. “One of our dealers has sold more than 12 round balers in three years and no parts have been needed for any of them so far.”
The Zetor UK headquarters at Coventry houses the parts stock and sales offices. More than 2,200 lines of parts and more than 500,000 individual parts are stocked. Next day delivery to customers is available, but stock orders are dispatched twice weekly.
In spite of recent difficulties facing many of the industry’s suppliers, Zetor is maintaining an average 89% first time pick rate, explained parts specialists Ravi Barthwal and Serhiy Khozyainkov. Nigel said that Zetor gains an advantage by using common parts across multiple models and series where possible, which makes it easier for customers, dealers and Zetor UK to ensure that key parts are always available.
Nigel believes that the latest Zetor models with additional features give them broader appeal and although the primary market remains mixed and livestock farms, they are also ideal for smaller arable farms, as well as salad and vegetable producers. “We have seen a big increase in the number of conquest sales made by our dealers, including replacing so-called premium brands in many cases,” he said. “Operators sit in the cabs and are impressed, then they have a test drive and really like them. Recent sales have included customers who moved away from the brand for various reasons many years ago, but who returned after trying the latest tractors. We tend to have smaller dealers than some other brands and customers prefer the more personal service. Often the overheads are lower too, so servicing and repairs cost less, and owners notice the difference.”
Challenges facing the agricultural industry mean that Nigel’s team is looking at financial products and service contract packages to offer those buying larger models in the range. “We have dealers already offering their own schemes and have seen these working well. We already have a 2,400-hour, two-year warranty as standard which provides reassurance and means customers can be confident of avoiding more expensive repairs after investing in a new tractor. Second-hand values are relatively the highest they have ever been too. There has always been strong demand for used Zetor tractors which means residual values are high, and that helps ensure a low cost of ownership from start to finish.”
“We enjoy fantastic brand loyalty from our dealers and customers,” concluded Nigel. “The build quality has gone up and the number of breakdowns and reliability issues experienced by users has gone down. It’s been interesting to note that while the use of electronics has had to increase to manage the latest engines and exhaust emissions, the number of warranty claims has actually gone down. Reliability is built in as standard.”
Most sales currently are in the 76–140hp sector where Zetor enjoys a respectable market share. The Zetor team’s target is to achieve annual sales of more than 300 tractors within the next five years – a target which will be easily met if the current trend of sales growth continues.