Interview with Kris Malkoski, VP/GM of Craftsman About the New CTX Tractors

Craftsman is known for innovation and in this interview Kris talks with me about the new premium tractors.

Paul: In the last 4 years Craftsman went from Husqvarna to MTD in the Professional line, dropped the Professional Line and now has a Premium line made by Briggs & Stratton. What lead Craftsman to introduce this high quality line of tractors?

Kris: While Craftsman is the leadership brand in the non-premium market (defined as <$2,500) Craftsman has not historically focused on the premium segment (>$2,500).  Beginning in 2010 we set out to see what the customer requirements were for this segment and whether or not Craftsman could be successful.

Paul: This new tractor line is much heavier, stronger and has a lot more features than what Craftsman has had in the past. What make the premium tractor buyer different?

Kris:  Our research showed that customers who were premium tractor purchasers tended to own a home with  a larger lot (> 2 acres) and have higher household income.  They were more interested than representative population in maintaining a well groomed and landscaped home.  They were also more likely to own a premium/luxury automobile.

In terms of product performance, the premium tractor purchaser wanted a highly durable tractor that operated at a reasonable speed, had a competitive turning radius, delivered features/styling typically seen on automobiles and had a strong service program.  The customer interested in premium tractors above the price of $5,000 were also looking for multi-use from their tractor (e.g. hauling, pushing snow, dethatching).

Paul: It is interesting that Cub Cadet has left the “premium” market.  They have discontinued the 3000 series and now only have the lower quality 1000 and 2000 series.  Reading “between the lines” it looks like they knew they would not be able to compete with the new Craftsman CTX series.

Kris: In quantitative research with hundreds of “intended tractor purchasers” (people who planned to buy a premium tractor within the next 24 months), we learned that Craftsman, with the feature set described above, could effectively compete with other premium competition (e.g. John Deere and Cub Cadet).    We also saw that there was a long term path to add new technology and innovation to keep the premium tractor relevant and sought after during the coming years.    After detailed discussion with all potential vendors, we concluded Briggs and Stratton had the current and future technology to launch and maintain Craftsman viability in the premium segment.

Paul: These new Briggs & Stratton engines in the CTX series start just like your car. No choke, just turn the key and go. What else makes the CTX line a premium line?

Kris: We named the series CTX (Craftsman Tractor Experience) because the premium in use experience customers have with the tractor.  Features found on Craftsman CTX premium tractors include:

1.        Durability – we gave it a solid, one-piece frame (welded to give maximum strength) and a cast iron front axle for long lasting performance

2.       Speed – Our tractor delivers 8.0 miles per hour forward and 3.0 reverse speed.

3.       Competitive Turning Radius – Our tractors have industry leading turning radius for the premium segment.

4.       Automotive Styling and Features including:

        a.       Automatic Traction Control
        b.      Electronic Fuel Management
        c.      Cruise Control
       d.      Digital Instrumentation
       e.      Power Steering
       f.       Soft Grip tilt Steering wheel
      g.       Console with cup holder
      h.      12 volt adapter

Plus, with Sears Service heritage, customers can purchase their tractor with the confidence of knowing that, should they ever need any service on their tractor, Sears would quickly be available to help.

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Paul: Great point! Sears does have the largest in-home service fleet and comes right out to your home to repair or service your tractor.  My readers have been asking for automatic traction control for 3 years now. It is great to see Craftsman respond with this new feature and others. What other features have you introduced in this new line?

Kris: Finally, our higher priced CTX model also delivers on the customer requirements of being multi-functional.  With a simple step, customers can remove the cutting deck and add other attachments to aerate, dethatch, haul or remove snow.  We’ve dubbed this unit “America’s Hardest Working Tractor!”

Paul: Are Sears customers ready for the CTX?

Kris: The tractor launched in January of this year.   Because of the automotive styling influence we decided it would be most appropriate to announce our launch at the North American Automotive Show in Detroit.  The press loved our new line – we received over 100 million house hold media impressions announcing the launch!  We look forward to seeing the product do well at Sears.

You can read my reviews of the CTX line here:  CTX 9500 Reviews

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