Let’s ‘Ride-On’ Into 2021

There has never been a better time to buy a Ride-On mower, JOHN POWER reports, as manufacturers and distributors respond to positive weather conditions and post-pandemic economic renewal.

Last year, as we all know, was filled with unprecedented challenges for much of the world. 

Cub Cadet’s new ZT2 54 Zero Turn Mower.

Some industries, however, withstood the trauma of the pandemic better than others, and it is fair to say that the outdoor power equipment (OPE) sector, along with retail hardware traders and various specialist online merchants, emerged from 2020 with comparatively healthy balance sheets.

Last year was also an opportunity for long-term, globally focused OPE manufacturers and their partners to consolidate their professionalism, and this expertise was particularly evident in the top-end class of Ride-On mowing equipment. (NB: for the purposes of this article we include all tractor-style, Zero-Turn and stand-on mowers under the collective ‘Ride-On’ term.)

Good Ride-On business activity in 2020, in hindsight, was attributable to four main factors: decent rainfall throughout much of Australia and New Zealand fuelled increased consumer demand; dealers were able to continue trading throughout commercial lockdowns; distributors, for the most part, managed to keep supply channels open; and customers – restricted in their travel and leisure pursuits – were more than willing to allocate discretionary funds to high-quality Ride-On equipment to enhance their stay-at-home lifestyles.

The prosperity of the current Ride-On sector paves the way for a great 2021, as dealers enter the New Year with deep and diverse product lists, strong supplier support, and buoyant in-house maintenance and sales divisions.

So, what are customers’ best options as far as Ride-On purchases are concerned in the next 12 months? Below are some trends and announcements of new releases that are definitely worth noting…

QUALITY POWERS ON

The pandemic of 2020, notwithstanding its comparatively low negative impacts on the Ride-On sector, still influenced buyer behaviour. Experts1 suggest that the initial open-ended threat of COVID-19 encouraged buyers to choose well-known, high-quality brands of equipment, backed up by traditionally strong support networks, and this trend continues.

“In uncertain times, people’s buying patterns tend to favour well built products by reputable brands that will last a long time over cheaper alternatives,” says Damien Souter, Briggs & Stratton’s Category Manager – Commercial, Ride & Handheld Product. “We’ve seen this trend with really strong sales of the Ferris and Victa Ride-On brands over 2020.”

In addition, says Clive Townley from Mowco, last year saw a rise in the popularity of Zero-Turn mowers at the expense of traditional steering wheel-fitted units.

“Zero-Turns are the end of steering wheel equipment; there are fewer components, less labour, and they allow for a better-quality product which only requires the same amount of pressure on the steering levers till the day it is worn out – without any mechanical transfer to the operator’s torso.”

NEW PRODUCTS: 2021

Clive Townley from Mowco says he is excited to release this new 32” stand-on mower.

In light of current customer preferences for quality equipment, supported by dependable service from their local dealers, manufacturers are eager to impress the market with a swathe of new-release Ride-Ons this year, including (as we will discuss in greater detail below) some highly anticipated battery-powered units.

Damien Souter says Briggs & Stratton has “a pipeline full of great new products for 2021, including the ISX3300 and ISX2200 Ferris contractor machines, and a few other surprises we can’t tell you about yet!”

Bronwyn Evans, Masport’s Marketing Coordinator, says Masport customers can look forward to the all-new 32” Pro-stance stand-on mower, which will be available soon. “This release has already received a lot of interest, especially from commercial operators looking for a highly compact commercial unit, which is easily trailable and able to fit through gates and operate in smaller yards,” Bronwyn explains.

Not to be outdone, MTD Products has announced thatits new Cub Cadet Enduro Series of Ride-On mowers is being launched over the 2020-21 summer season.

This range will featuring a choice of premium, powerful Kawasaki engines or a smart EFI engine with push button start, as well as a standard front bumper and high-back seat with armrests across the entire range. 

The XT Series continues to feature responsive handling with a 16” turning radius, smooth hydrostatic transmissions and Cub Cadet’s continued commitment to having one of the strongest warranties across the industry, with a 6-year domestic warranty for added peace of mind.

Also launching this summer is Cub Cadet’s new Ultima Series, designed to offer strength, comfort and performance. Packed with heavy-duty features like 9-gauge tubular steel frames and fabricated decks, this range is also powered by premium Kawasaki engines. Additionally, the range has an offset front axle design that delivers fewer clumps and finer clippings for amazing results plus additional comfort with a fully customizable command centre with premium high-back seats for all day comfort. The Ultima Series includes the ZT1, ZT2 (pictured) and ZTX ranges with a range of decks sizes available from 48”–60”.

Zero Turn Ride-On mowers, according to Clive Townley, are rapidly stealing market share from traditional steering wheel-fitted designs.

Clive Townley advises that Mowco has a new 32″stand-on (pictured) for commercial use and a 60″ commercial zero turn for steeper terrain.

ELECTRIC FUTURE

As noted above, buyers seeking to capitalise on the energy-efficiency and amenity of electrically powered Ride-Ons will have some exciting options to choose from in 2021.

There is a growing market for electrically powered mowers with increasingly higher capacities, particularly amongst property owners who wish to use their own solar/wind renewable energy systems to charge vehicles and outdoor power equipment: i.e. no more liquid fuel costs. Battery-powered gear is also proving popular in built-up areas where reduced equipment noise and emissions allow for extended operating times, as well as improved relations with neighbours.  

Mindful of this trend, Masport has announced the imminent release of its Pro-Turn® EV – the first all-day electric commercial Zero-Turn. See picture above.

Electric Ride-On mowers are making a splash in 2021 – Pictured is the new Gravely Pro Turn® EV, which is distributed by Masport.

“Powered by FusionCore – the industry’s first swappable Lithium-Ion battery system – it will run quieter while delivering the power and performance you expect from a commercial Gravely,” Bronwyn Evans says.

“FusionCore QuikSwap batteries are designed with flexibility in mind, ensuring operators have the ability to continue cutting all day and beyond.”

Understanding customers’ needs for outdoor power equipment that is quieter with zero emissions, Cub Cadet has also just launched [in September 2020] their range of Lithium-Ion ‘Battery Riders’(pictured) with the same strength, durability and performance expected of a traditional Cub Cadet Ride-On mower. 

Electric Ride-On mowers are making a splash in 2021 – Pictured is Cub Cadet’s new CC 30 e Battery Ride-On.

The greater the usage of battery-powered Ride-On mowers, the greater the fuel savings; hence the likelihood that payback periods will shorten – and customer uptake will increase – as battery-powered Ride-Ons penetrate professional contractor markets.

This is an exciting time for both manufacturers and customers. The pandemic allowed ‘tried and true’ suppliers to reinforce their logistical superiority to wannabe newcomers in 2020, and prove that secure and longstanding supply chains are worth their weight in gold. Customers responded with delight during otherwise tough living conditions, and the scene is definitely set for ongoing buoyant trading in 2021.