A 1958 Deere Sales Talk, part 1

Sales presentation on JD Waterloo line kicks off



Editor’s note: The following appeared in Green Magazine in 1999. We thank Steve Just for sending us the original.

As you can see, it was a presentation given by Deere employee F.W. Kirby to a meeting of dealers at the Omaha Branch House in 1958. Now before you start reading it, please remember that salesmen have been prone to exaggerate and sometimes bend the truth as it suits them, so please don’t send me letters nitpicking this thing to death. Rather, concentrate on some of the interesting points and comparisons Mr. Kirby makes. Herewith the first of six parts:



I am sure I will enjoy this opportunity to talk to you, gentlemen, about the product that I represent, the product that should be quite dear to your eyes, as well as mine.


Look around here and you will see quite a few competitive tractors. You may wonder what in the world we are going to do—are we going to try to sell these to you? We are going to try to do just the opposite, gentlemen–what we are going to try to sell to you today is the line of tractors built by the largest tractor factory in the world. If our tractors were built by the smallest tractor plant in the world and of the same quality that they are coming out of the largest one, I would say that would be fine. There are some things, though, about a large factory that do promote a quality that you can’t get out of a shop with lesser production. For your information, this factory of ours covers roughly 160 acres and better than 60 of these acres are under roof. We have about 6,000 employees. It is a large operation. We use over four and five thousand machine tools a year and they are expensive. Machines used to make our transmission gears, fan gears, power shaft and similar gears cost in the neighborhood of eight to 18 thousand dollars apiece and if you fellows have ever made a trip through the factory, you know that there are quite a few of those machines in our plant at Waterloo. We have a foundry over there capable of pouring approximately a thousand tons of iron a day. That’s high production. As a matter of fact, that foundry rates as one of the three largest in the entire country and that’s comparing not only the farm implement industry but the automotive trade as well. Certainly, it is a big operation.


I tell you all of this to try to impress you of the cost of the operation. That’s important in considering quality that’s built into these tractors. Somebody has laid out a tremendous amount of capital for our plant at Waterloo to provide all of this equipment. Actually, it cost someone in the neighborhood of $17,500 to $22,500 to provide each laborer, each man, in our plant with a work station. That’s a lot of money. If you take that same number of people and provide them $22,500 to go into business, there are not too many of them going to be able to make themselves $100 a week or better and our average pay would, I think, come higher than that. So, it is a tremendous investment. We have an investment in machine tools there that you could not duplicate in the smaller shop or shops of lesser capacity. Tools that perform operations that you can’t duplicate on 20-year-old engine lathes. It’s for this reason, gentlemen, and for this reason alone, that we were first with power steering in the farm implement field, with factory installed power steering if you please. Why? Because we have the productivity to afford us to have the tools capable of working down to these close tolerances.


We have a grinder line in our plant consisting of five centerless grinders operating in series with each other in a space perhaps 65 feet in length and about 12 feet wide. In that little spot, we have an investment of approximately $100,000. If we were to make, say, the 520 in Waterloo, the 620 in Moline, the 720 in Omaha and the 820 somewhere else, we could not afford to have that duplication of machinery and capital in each place. What would be the result? We would not be able to do the quality of work. Consider a Powr-Trol operating valve. Each tractor with a hydraulic system for remote cylinder operation has at least one of these and if it has a dual function hydraulic system, it has two of them. But surface finish on this part will not exceed one, two or three millionth of an inch. That’s a surface finish better than found on plate glass. It’s not to be exceeded in the mechanical industry. That’s quality found only in the equipment you men are selling.


I rode over here with a man who is from the Starnaman garage that sells Oldsmobiles and he made the remark that he was surprised in recent years with the degree of finish used on farm products. I asked, “What do you mean you are surprised?” He answered, “Well, it’s approaching what we have in the automotive trade as far as being complex and highly machined and finished.”


My remark was, “What do you mean it’s comparable to what you have in the automotive trade? We have parts in our tractor built with a precision of manufacturing that you won’t begin to find in the automotive trade.” And I went on to explain to him why, after all, a tractor 85 percent of the time is operating at about 85 percent of its horsepower, but an automobile, I think it’s recognized by people who service automobiles and design them, uses but perhaps 15 percent of its horsepower about 15 percent of the time. Is it only natural that we put a more precision built product together? Certainly, it is.


Consider the manufacturing process we use in making our main bearing housings and similar castings and you find another example of quality possible only in a large operation such as ours. This part has been designed with alternately thick and thin sections. The thin sections will have cooled down to their final form and size before the thicker sections do. A stress results between the thick and the thin section s in the casting. Every one of the castings of this type on our tractors goes through a normalizing process where we place it in a large furnace on an endless belt which carries the part into an area of stress relieving heat and then we control the rate at which the entire casting cools off by s lowly moving it out of this heated area into one of room temperature. Both thick and thin sections are cooled at the same rate, consequently, there is no internal strain remaining in the part. Isn’t it logical that we are going to have a part that will be more capable of absorbing s hock without fracturing? These are all benefits of the fact that the tractors that I came here to talk to you about today are built in not only the world’s largest, but I’ m going to give us due credit and say the world’s best, manufacturing plant.


How did all this happen? It wasn’t an accident. You don’t accumulate the millions of dollars necessary to set up a plant like ours in one day and start in and build a product. Our factory’s birth came about in about 1892 when John Froelich designed the first tractor. He came to Waterloo in 1895 and he organized the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Co., which Deere bought in 1918. The next five years were spent in developing the first tractor to carry the John Deere name and, of course, this was the 1923 model ” D.” The model ” D” was built to satisfy the five fundamentals of good tractor design, namely­—simplicity, dependability, economy, adaptability and modern design. Let’s this afternoon talk more specifically about the five basic fundamentals.


Simplicity – when we consider simplicity, don’ t think back and compare a 520 tractor with what you knew as the model “B” of 1934. Comp are a 520 with today’s competitive tractors and we have the same keynote of simplicity we have always had over our competitors. Of course, that’s who we should be trying to make inroads on for new business—not isolate ourselves to repeating John Deere business. Let’s start this year and attack our competitors a little bit on the basic fundamentals. They are just the good sales points as they ever were.


Dependability – how do we stack up as far as dependability is concerned today? The farmers know. Every farmer knows of a neighbor-owned John Deere tractor between 15 to 30 years old that will be back in the field this spring doing a job of plowing with the same vigor as last year. Dependability of the entire Dee re organization including dealers to stand behind its product year after year and provide local service is a quality not to be overlooked by the customer.


Economy – le t a John Dee re owner talk economy but temper him a little bit. A fellow that owns a John Deere diesel, for instance, will get so enthused that it is hard to anyone to believe him. Why? Because he bought a tractor to do a given jo b and he got so much more than he ever realized was possible that he is oversold. Of course, he is dangerous at times. He’ll go out and tell somebody that he plows all day long and has the toughest plowing conditions in the world and only uses a gallon to a gallon and a half of fuel a n hour. So, he is overenthusiastic, but temper him a little and let him do the talking about economy or power.


Adaptability – we certainly cover the horsepower range; when we talk about adaptability, we mean fitting the tractor to the job on the farm. You, as a John Deere dealer, certainly have tractors across the board to fill the horsepower gap. Look what Allis Chalmers has had in the past; look what International has today – look what the rest of the m have. T h e y don’ t begin to have the wide variety o f models you do or the fuel types. I know of one manufacturer, and you men do, too, that has four different fuel types in every model he sells. The only trouble is that particular manufacturer is not doing all the business in the world. As a matter of fact, I can remember in recent years, they had a difficult time staying in business producing 17 tractors a day and then closed down for six weeks’ inventory. So, the fact they supply all engine types in all models doesn’t spell out complete success. You, gentlemen, sell a variety of front end, axle, wheel and tire, power shaft and hydraulic equipment that makes your tractor adaptable to the job more so than anyone in the industry.


Let’s talk about modern design and its importance. Deere and Company has sometimes been criticized as being a little bit slow to come out with certain features of equipment. I’ll tell you how slow they were coming out with a lift system on a tractor. In 1927, Deere and Company produced the first mechanical lift on a tractor. Somebody pioneered the hydraulic system. I think if you will look back in 1933 that you will find out that John Deere was there. Let’s not give anybody else credit for these things. They were real fundamental advancements; they were not knick-knacks. In 1947, we came out with Powr-Trol and what a reception it has enjoyed. In 1955, we came out with the universal three-point hitch and if we suffered any in being a little bit slow in lift systems, it is possibly in the universal three-point hitch. But when we came out with it, we came out with a hitch that has no superior. We came out with six speeds in 1941 when other tractors had three, four or five speeds in them. Actually, there have only been two major front end changes in row crop tractors since their introduction. Roll-O -Mati c: Dee re introduced Roll-O-Matic as an exclusive and it’s still exclusive. There are many of you who haven’ t ordered a tractor without Roll-O-Matic this year. Our domestic production of row crop tractors is practically 100 percent Roll-O-ma tic.


What other basic change has there been in the front half of a row crop tractor? Power steering – has that met with approval? It certainly has and met with wonderful approval even though the front wheels were dancing back and forth when you drove down the road the first year we had it out. I’ll be honest about it; we had some instability in the first power steering equipped tractors. But power steering was s till well received. In answering a power steering complaint, you probably would say something like this, “George, what do you want me to do? I’ll be glad to take this off and put on conventional manual steering equipment.” Bu t, what do you know, George wasn’t interested in having that tractor make him work anymore. He got a taste of what he wanted – power steering. All he wanted was for you to fix it. Take your time, fix it. The two basic changes in front end design were introduced by John Deere, as were many of the basic features you have enjoyed in the farm tractor field.


Getting back to simplicity for a minute. Let’s look at our two cylinder design and see what it has to offer us in the form of simplicity. First – the thing we have often talked about in years past has been proper weight distribution and the consequent advantage in traction. Consult the Nebraska test to prove John Deere offers adequate traction without penalizing the customer 12 to 15 cents a pound for additional iron weights.


One-piece construction of crankcase and transmission assures proper alignment of all gears and shafts. No chance for a power consuming misalignment of shafts to be assembled in this tractor. All gear teeth will handle their load across the full width of the tooth. You will notice that transmissions in competitive tractors are located in such a manner as to distribute weight near the rear wheels to offset the forward weight of the engine. This makes it impossible to provide the operator a decent platform and sea t. Is not   operator comfort important on every tractor? Having plenty of room above the transmission and rear axle of a John Deere tractor makes possible placing a fully adjustable upholstered seat with ample leg room when sitting or standing. Compare this comfort with foo t pads offered by International and Allis Chalmers and seats that must be tilted over the rear of the tractor to provide standing room. Try to disengage the clutch of these competitive tractors while in a standing position. While sitting or standing on a John Deere, try to position yourself in such a manner that vision would be impaired in doing any field work. If you are able to do so, ask yourself if you would try to drive the tractor while in such a position. You would need to have your head between the gearshift lever and the instrument panel. Get up on the 450 or the D-17 and notice how the broad straight hood and the big flywheel housing and belt pulley interfere with vision doing row crop work.


Heavier, huskier parts – well, of course, and fewer of them. Just as basic today to better design as ever. The result of two cylinder design – simplicity. Ease of servicing the tractor, a point that can be well brought out is brake adjustment and we have brakes today with greatly increased capacity over what we knew in the past. Any mechanic ought to be able to replace the entire clutch mechanism in a matter of 20 minutes on a John Deere tractor and I would like to have you point that out to your customer. Show him where the clutch is on somebody else’s tractor. If he doesn’t think the clutch has been changed, ask him why they sell parts; ask him why they print service manuals about changing the clutch; ask him why some unbiased source like the Implement and Tractor Flat Rate Manual tells you what the flat rate is on the clutch change on the 450 or the 017 or the Ford, where you have to break the tractor in half to get to it. It might be a good thing to get one of those flat rate manuals and show some of these prices for service work to your customer. It might help him to see why we retain the design that we do.


When I get into talking about engines, I will go in to detail baring facts that will allow you fellows as salesmen to go out and put on successful field demonstrations.


Lugging ability – you know that anyone who has been out in the field plow in g where tractors are used remembers what happens when the old Deere gets down there where the going is tough. You can count the firing strokes on your fingers; it just keeps hammering away. There’s a basic reason for it, gentlemen, and it’s in two-cylinder design. It can’ t be in any other design; it’s physically impossible.