Serving South Africa

When Peter Askew and his team bought New Holland SA three and a half years ago, they had a specific goal in mind. New Holland is the exclusive supplier of New Holland agricultural machinery and farming equipment for the country. In the agricultural world, New Holland is a well known and respected brand of choice. A machine with a New Holland stamp can be relied upon to be a solid investment to farmers. But that was not enough. Askew and his team wanted their customer service to be as reputable as their machines; and that is what they set out to do.

New Holland wholesale operation imports its equipment into South Africa from across the world. The company employs 88 dealers throughout the country, and has two company-owned stores where customers can buy directly from New Holland. Askew thinks of his company as a “family”. And he wanted to bring his customers into his family. “When we bought the company,” he continues, “…one of the most important issues we focused on was customer interaction. We believe you cannot do business without being face to face with the end-users.”

New Holland sponsors what is known as “farmers’ day” which gives customers—the farmers—the opportunity to come and speak with New Holland employees directly, see a demonstration, and talk face to face. “It is a change in our corporate culture. We insist on having more one-on-one interaction with our customers,” says Askew.

Askew tells TABJ that it is important to listen to your customers for a number of reasons. The feedback his team receives on-site is invaluable, for one. Two, he gets an intimate perspective on the daily routine of his customers. He gains insight into who the influential farmers may be, meaning, farmers whose methods are most respected and who are looking for the right equipment to support their industry. By interacting with those leaders, New Holland knows the needs, wishes and ideas of the South African agricultural industry. By doing so, the company is better equipped to educate farmers on the leading technology and mechanisation systems and with a comprehensive product range, New Holland is able to provide a personal service to each farmer.

Clean technology

A pertinent example of this leading technology is the NH2™ hydrogen-powered tractor. The hydrogen-powered NH2™ tractor is part of New Holland’s Energy Independent Farm concept. It is the first tractor in the world to be powered by hydrogen. The concept fits with the brand’s Clean Energy Leader position, which saw the company lead the industry with its support for 100 per cent biodiesel without reduced machine performance.

The experimental NH2™ tractor replaces the traditional combustion engine with hydrogen fuel cells to generate electricity. It’s fairly scientific, but basically it works by drawing compressed hydrogen from a tank on the tractor which reacts in the fuel cell with oxygen, drawn from the air, to produce water and electrons. The electrons are then harnessed in the form of an electric current, which drives electric motors to power the tractor’s drivetrain and auxiliary systems. It is the close commercial reality of the NH2™ tractor that makes the project of huge benefit to New Holland customers.

Askew is excited about this direction and is committed to keeping the end-users’ needs at the forefront. While these low-emission machines are a wonderful advancement, he strives to ensure that they can be available and affordable.

“One of the challenges we face, and I prefer to think of it as a challenge,” says Askew, “has to do with emission control. The regulations and research and development that go into these machines does increase the price of the product, and it can become more difficult for the farmer.” Askew is, therefore, “concentrating on finding the product which will meet the required emission standards, and that we can get into the market to all people—not only those who can afford the most sophisticated models.”

In-house training

As New Holland prepares for many more successful years working towards the betterment of the South African agricultural industry, the company supports its employees with in-house training. “New Holland is a brand, and developed across the board, and that is probably why we are major players. We focus on the training facet. We have a training school 300 km from Johannesburg where we do all our training,” says Askew.

New Holland has made a considerable investment in an ongoing staff training programme in order to offer appropriate solutions to farmers’ specific requirements. New Holland’s long-term strategy is to establish and maintain close customer relations and to ensure continued improvements in service levels.