Brennan Agri-Repairs – a new breed of Zetor dealer
The short answer is yes, and the brand is now fighting back from a period in the Doldrums with an up-to-date range of machines and a reinvigorated dealership network.
One of the dealers leading this resurgence is Michael Brennan of Co. Kilkenny, who has opened a business premises in Castlecomer and is now active in promoting the brand to farmers in the area.
He explains that the import situation is now that each individual dealer directly purchases the tractors on its account with an overall sales manager for Ireland, Gerry Rabbitte, who coordinates the purchase, marketing and transport of the machines.
So far the system is working well and with the lead time for tractors now being as low as six to eight weeks from the factory, Zetor is all set to grow as an alternative, but equally valid brand as the main players in the market.
Michael is certainly a firm advocate with a strong attachment to the brand that has grown with him getting to know the machines better.
After many years working with IAM of Kilkenny, both as a mechanic and demonstrator, Michael, in the time-honoured tradition, purchased a van and set out on his own account to serve farmers in his area.
Soon afterwards he was approached by Zetor to undertake the outstanding warranty work that had not been completed by the then recently departed import agency.
Man with a van
This turned out to a golden opportunity to get to know the tractors and the customers and he had soon decided to become a dealer himself, organising a modern premises on an industrial estate just outside of Castlecomer.
The workshop is large, clean and spacious, and projects an image of the manufacturer that it has not always enjoyed, but it is one that Zetor would doubtless wish to become associated with.
The tractors themselves have caught up with the latest thinking in agricultural mechanisation in that they remain simple and easy to operate, while bringing on board the idea that lever and cables are passing into the zone of legacy engineering.
The Forterra HD150 parked on the forecourt is an excellent illustration of this with the console consisting of neatly set out switches and knobs, which appear as clear and functional as any others on the market.
However, unlike other companies, Zetor has not made a song and dance about these updates; there is no fancy branding of the tractor control package as a separate entity, it is just part of the tractor and comes with the higher-spec models.
The rest of the cab is quite comfortable and although it may not have the details of finish – such as various tones of lining and coloured stitching – that we see elsewhere, there is nothing that should dissuade an operator from spending his or her days in it.
Zetor has pulled out the stops to update itself, these are not backward tractors trying to play catch up, and in a sense, they never were.
Back in the seventies and eighties four-wheel-drive, a passenger seat and air compressor were all part and parcel of owning one.
In the UK, hill farmers appreciated them as a safe tractor, thanks to that driven front axle on steep slopes, despite the major manufacturers deriding them as being poor of quality and destined to stop working every five minutes, mainly because they could not compete on the spec.
Even in Ireland the Crystal was the first modern tractor for many, and there are plenty of contractors who started out with one, so the marque has a proud legacy with little to hide.
Modern tractors for modern farms
This raises the question as to who is buying them now?
Michael is unequivocal; they are tractors that are suitable for a wide range of farms, not just the part time stockman, an unfortunate image that he wishes to dispel.
There are certainly customers who run dairy and beef herds, but there are also a growing number of mixed farms and even small contractors that have bought Zetors from him over the last couple of years.
It is true that they, as yet, have to break the 200hp barrier within the range, but he can see it coming sooner rather than later, pointing to the increasing use of third party components, such as Deutz engines, which are being incorporated into the newer models
Popular power bracket
Meanwhile, the bulk of enquires he receives are for tractors of around 120hp or more, a segment that Zetor has well covered with the Proxima and Forterra ranges.
Quite how many he will sell in the new year is a different matter, for though he, like other dealers, is getting a good deal of interest from farmers, the price increases of late has made many delay purchase, although they may well have the money available to go ahead and buy.
The sentiment in the trade is that there will be no dramatic prices decreases despite the fall in steel price. Instead, it will be left to inflation to erode the hikes, or there will be better offers on trade ins and so forth.
Michael agrees, and he would be delighted to have some trade ins, or any used stock to sell. Good used tractors are simply not available at the moment, which is driving the interest in more budget orientated new models.
He points to a Ford 6600 which is undergoing repair in the workshop. It is a typical tractor of the type found on smaller dairy or beef farms, and, at 40 years old, is ripe for replacement. If a good secondhand tractor is not available then why not look at a new model he asks?
Going places with Zetor
Brennan Agri-Repairs is a young business with definite plans for the future, all based on the sale and promotion of Zetor tractors in the Kilkenny /Carlow region.
There is also the intention to expand westward with a sales operation serving Kerry and Cork. Some sales have already been made and Michael is determined to expand on these.
The site at Castlecomer has room for expansion into implements, and that is a move he has in mind for the future, but it is tractors which remain the focus of his attention for the present, and Zetor tractors in particular.