14 June 2019, 11:00
LECTURA visited Czech manufacturer of agricultural tractors ZETOR a.s., interviewed Jakub Vičík, Head of Marketing Communications and found out very interesting facts about the company itself, market situation, design awards or future technologies.
Could you please briefly describe to our international audience what kind of business do you run and what products or services do you offer?
ZETOR TRACTORS a.s company is a manufacturer of agricultural tractors with a 70-year tradition. The production capacity is concentrated in Brno-Líšeň (Czech Republic), moreover, ZETOR is represented by 6 subsidiaries abroad.
We focus on providing not only quality products but also related services. Therefore, the customers can rely on our warranty and post-warranty service after buying a tractor as we provide services almost all over the whole world due to a wide sales and service network.
The ZETOR tractors are typically coloured red. Does the coloration have any history? What does the colour symbolize?
In our business, the colour of the machine is one of the significant features, which helps to recognize the brand at first sight. The original ZETORs, manufactured since 1946, were dark green due to the large stock of military camouflage paint in Zbrojovka Brno factory, where the production of machines started. Since the 1960s, the coloration of ZETOR tractors stabilized on red and light blue.
The red tractors were intended for export to Western countries and the Middle East, whereas the light blue tractors were intended for the domestic market and Eastern Bloc countries. Another change occurred in the 1980s as the colours were unified on a combination of red and black in different proportions. The current tractors are just red, including the wheel rims.
ZETOR dominates the markets in the Czech Republic and Central Europe in the number of units sold and beats renowned brands such as John Deere or New Holland. What attributes of ZETOR tractors surpass the competitors?
The ZETOR brand means tradition, quality and affordability of products and services. In tractor production, we place a great deal of emphasis on simplicity, but also on machine performance and high efficiency. Thanks to constructional and functional improvements, our tractors maintain low operating costs for their entire life.
We put emphasis on service availability and fast repair solutions. All this allows us to maintain a strong position in the 40 – 170 HP class, especially in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, where ZETOR is the best-selling brand. In terms of market share, the brand is also successful in Poland, where it ranks among the top three manufacturers.
The models ZETOR CRYSTAL and FORTERRA have received a number of awards, why are they the most successful models of recent years?
Both tractors are characterised by their robustness and power, they feature multi-element axle suspension and ECO 40 transmission, which saves up to 18% of the costs depending on the job being performed.
The new FORTERRA tractor range also uses more efficient braking systems and the models are equipped with a new dashboard or higher overpressure cabin. The overpressure prevents dirt from cumulating in the operator environment.
The modernized CRYSTAL boasts the proven 6-cylinder Deutz engine with a displacement of 6.1 litres and maximum power of 171 HP, making it the most powerful machine in the ZETOR brand portfolio. The engine meets the EU Stage IV emission limit and the Common Rail system guarantees low emission production. The engine is defined by long lifespan and low fuel consumption.
I have to mention the unique collaboration with the Italian design studio Pininfarina in 2015, which is involved, for example, in the design of Ferrari cars. The resulting version of ZETOR MAJOR has been called the world's sexiest tractor by the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation). Is there any further collaboration going on?
Let us correct your statement, as a result of our collaboration with Pininfarina studio, we created the design concept “ZETOR by Pininfarina”, which represents a new iconic vision of ZETOR. Two years later (in 2015), we presented the ZETOR MAYOR series in a new design based on the Italian studio concept. We are also going to implement the design for the PROXIMA, FORTERRA and CRYSTAL models.
This year specifically, we are working on the implementation of the design for the PROXIMA series, in order to be able to offer them at the end of this year. Moreover, the redesigned FORTERRA series will be offered by the first half of next year.
The sales of agricultural equipment on EU markets have been declining since 2012 and are not improving much due to natural conditions (drought), which has resulted in cost-cutting measures, even in your company. What are your prospects and expectations for this year and the following one?
Considering the sales decline on the markets, the company has decided to face the issue by reducing production and fixed costs. At the same time, we continue to develop key product innovations, focusing mainly on the application of the new ZETOR design developed in collaboration with the world-renowned studio Pininfarina for the model series PROXIMA, FORTERRA and CRYSTAL.
We also continue to invest in research, development and sales support. This year, it accounts for about 9% of total sales.
According to your website, the average depreciation in tractor value for the first five years is 29% for ZETOR, but 52% for competitors. What makes the difference?
We place emphasis on efficient and smart tractor implementation. The usage of reliable and durable components leads to reliability and long service life of tractors. The quick and available service we offer has also an impact.
How well is ZETOR prepared for the new engine emission regulation, Stage V? Have you developed entirely new engines or just enhanced the Stage IV ones?
We are currently awaiting a certification by designated authorities, which is expected to be delivered during July. This will make us one of the few tractor manufacturers, who use their own engines for their machines to meet the latest emission regulations. Compliance with this standard is achieved by modifying the existing Stage IV engine solution.
Zetor lacks a series of large (premium) tractors around the 200 hp mark, even though the production has been considered in the past. What is the situation now?
We still plan to expand our product portfolio with tractor models with power around the 200 HP mark.
How do you approach the future technology trends – autonomous driving and electric drive?
Within the framework of the company’s strategy, our long-term goal is to come up with technologies, which reflect the demands of the market and bring innovative and modern solutions to our customers.
Regarding the mid-term, the company does not consider developing the electric drive. Unfortunately, we cannot be more concrete about the autonomous driving.
Are you going to exhibit at the Agritechnica 2019 trade fair in Hannover?
ZETOR is not going to exhibit at the Agritechnica trade fair this year. Speaking of the entire ZETOR TRACTORS a.s. group, we would like to focus on smaller local trade fairs and shows, where we can be closer to end customers, and, therefore, present the advantages of our tractors better. However, we participated at significant trade fair Agra in Germany this year, for instance.
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ZETOR TRACTORS is a Czech manufacturer of agricultural tractors with more than a 70-year tradition. The company's headquarters and production capacity is located in Brno, Czech Republic, but the company is also represented by 6 subsidiaries abroad. In the period 1946-2015, ZETOR sold more than 1,3 mil. tractors, exported to over 90 countries. ZETOR also manufactures its own engines.
Source: LECTURA Verlag GmbH; Patrik Eder