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Photo provided by BOB-CAT

Equipment Trends 2019

For Outdoor Power Equipment (OPE) magazine’s annual “Equipment Trends” focus, OPE recently asked representatives from equipment manufacturers throughout the industry to share their insights into market trends and what dealers need to know. Their responses are presented here, in the order in which they were received.

OPE: What trends are you seeing with regard to outdoor power equipment?

Photo provided by Excel Industries (Hustler)

We continue to see a focus on operator comfort. Also, clean, simple designs that make service and reliability a focus – no need to add unnecessary parts and pieces that just add cost.

– Brad Unruh, director of new product development, Excel Industries (Hustler)

Among the OPE trends we are seeing are more autonomous products like robotic lawn mowers; more stand-on high-productivity products like our new Hurricane; easier-to-use hydrostatic drive transmissions with common controls across different product categories; more battery-driven products; text-to-video instructions on machines; and more business software that further improves productivity and routing.

– Pierre Pereira, director of sales, Billy Goat Industries

Available labor has continued to be a struggle for our landscaper customers.

–Ed Wright, CEO, Wright Mfg.

Photo by Echo Bear Cat

The CH9540HP was brought to market as a direct response to the increase in tractor HP available in today’s market. To adequately serve these customers with larger-HP tractors, Echo Bear Cat needed to deliver a tool that could handle the power of the increased-HP tractors. We also are carefully monitoring the trends of user convenience and noise restrictions. With the increase in these demands, Echo Bear Cat wants to continue to improve our available lineup in the areas of efficiency, convenience, and market restrictions/regulations.

–Hannah Aure, business unit director, Echo Bear Cat

Having sold more than 4.000 units in 50-plus countries around the world, we have gathered a great amount of feedback from Spider users, which we have evaluated closely and implemented into our equipment. We understand that time is money for any professional user, and our main goal is for less downtime, limiting time in the workshop for maintenance or servicing, and increasing the amount of time spent out in the field, cutting grass. 

Going forward, we are focusing on electrification, trying to find the best solutions that could be used for our product. Cleaner machinery using renewable energy (electricity) is our prime motivation for the next decade, and one of our top priorities. Another possibility is hybrid power, but we feel that any hybrid system would significantly increase the weight of our unit, reducing our products’ climbing ability, and increasing the fuel consumption. 

There are some hybrid remote-controlled mowers on the market, but all these have a higher weight than our largest Spider model, which increases fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Our goal is to use one of the existing models as the platform for a fully electric remote-controlled mower, and then develop a semi- or fully autonomous professional slope mower. This is a high priority for our R&D department.

– Lubor Hladik, international sales manager, Spider Mowers

Attributes and features that enhance the commercial landscaper’s efficiency and improve their business, as well as those that save the busy consumer time – such as quick access to components like our rotating bumper to improve engine service time, DIY maintenance items, and other features that make a mower easy to operate and own – are trending in today’s market. Technology interface with outdoor power equipment is gaining traction, as today’s new customers have differing ideas in this market segment than their parents did. Also, alternative fuels are appealing to a larger audience than ever before.

– Ron Scheffler, senior product manager, Bob-Cat

Photo by Kioti

Across the board, we are seeing that operator comfort is the most prominent recent trend. Customers – both consumers and commercial users – want additional features on equipment like they have in their cars, making operator comfort, ease of use and add-on features the main priorities. We’re finding that customers specifically want accessory ports, an ergonomic design, and easy-to-perform maintenance functions over many other features.

– Joel Hicks, senior product support manager, Kioti

Battery power continues to advance and proliferate throughout the consumer equipment industry and its many applications. It is exciting to see the continued innovation and technological advances being creatively utilized in so many different ways. Hats off to all of the manufacturers that have entered that space. On the commercial front, we are happy to be seeing the stand-on segment continue to trend up as more and more new products add both depth and breadth to that market space.

– Craig Ransavage, product manager for Ryan

Photo by Seago

We are seeing more people interested in our attachment pieces from the Seago Attachment Group. The Power Rotary Scissor Head, Hover Trimmer and PortaPump Junior attachment are for people trying to get more out of equipment they already have. These pieces attach to any make or model of string trimmer/brush cutter, so it can make an old powerhead new. 

– Scott Sweeney, president, Seago International, Inc.

The OPE market is embracing electronic technology, as the value and ease of entry for buyers improves. Battery-powered handheld equipment is a prime example of technology that’s moved beyond early adopters and into the mainstream. The tech is better, and now offered by a wide number of brands, making it trusted and accepted by the masses. Battery-powered ride-on mowers are following this same path. A few brands are pioneering products that satisfy a small segment willing to pay a premium for unique benefits. As more brands enter in the next three to five years, consumer confidence should increase, and price points should become easier to justify for a broader part of the market. Gas-powered ride-on mowers have also embraced technology, as electronic dash displays and some on-board monitoring have been introduced, and EFI engines have claimed a notable and growing part of the market. GPS tracking and remote control are two other examples of technology finding their way into the OPE market. Consumers – whether private or commercial – like the benefits of electronic technology, and will expect it as quickly as manufacturers deliver it in a reliable form that delivers a better experience in some way for the buyer. That may come through convenience, lower operating costs, safety, performance, or some other benefit, but it will come. 

– Michael Slattery, director of product management, Schiller Grounds Care (Steiner)

Photo by New Holland

New Holland Construction is seeing the trend in compact track loaders (CTL) taking over the sales of skid-new steer loaders (SSL). As of 2016, CTLs took over the market and continue to grow. The trend continues with a key machine size category, 3,000 pounds ROC at 35 percent tipping load. Year to date, this CTL machine size category is up 14 percent over 2018. Customers from the key applications agriculture, rental, landscaping, and construction are driving the sales.

– Ryan Anderson, skid-steer loader and compact track loader product marketing specialist for New Holland, and Joe Boufford, construction equipment marketing for New Holland

Professionals are looking for battery-powered outdoor power equipment that delivers the power of professional gas equipment, all-day runtime, quick recharging time – a true gas alternative for landscaping professionals. Landscapers work long hours, and transporting gas or battery backups is cumbersome. They just need to know their tools will get the job done. We understand these tools are an investment for hardworking landscapers around the country, so we put new technology to work with the Commercial Series Backpack Battery, ensuring that each Commercial Series tool has the power to last all day without needing additional charge time.

– Sarah Hohmann, brand manager EGO Power+

Photo by Masport Ltd.

In the consumer market segment, there continues to be an influx of battery-powered machines supplied by the power tool companies. They are a real threat to the established industry players, as they have expertise in batteries, and have relished the opportunity to enter an industry that has been slow to adapt to changes in technology. They already have well-known brands, and are in every hardware chain and online market platform. They have not needed a service industry in the past to support their products, and their entrance into our market is likely to accelerate the trend toward big box and online sales of consumer outdoor power equipment. In the commercial field, the rush toward battery is less pronounced, with landscapers remaining cautious and more reticent to change. However, the commercial battery offerings, in general, are getting better each year and, in time, they will also pose the same sort of challenge to the industry as is currently the case with consumer units.

– Steve Hughes, managing director, Masport Ltd

We are seeing increasing technology, software and control capabilities. Our own RT-120 Posi-Track loader features industry-leading control adjustability, flow sharing, speed control and multiple operator preference settings. 

Manufacturers are also continuing to add power and performance upgrades. The new ASV VT-70 High Output features best-in-class torque, and our RT-120 leads the industry in power.

– Buck Storlie, product line manager at ASV Holdings Inc.

Photo by Stihl Inc.

One of the biggest industry trends is the influx of battery-powered products among the professional and consumer markets. Many municipalities and residential areas require low- to no-exhaust emissions and lower noise levels, so the market is adapting to meet those needs.

While “smart” technology is already the norm inside homes, it’s also a growing trend within the landscaping industry. From Bluetooth-connected ear protection to robotic lawn mowers, we are seeing more smart technology used in outdoor power equipment. 

Despite advances in battery-powered handheld outdoor power equipment, many professionals prefer to operate gasoline-powered equipment. As a result, there have been a number of new technologies that enhance these tools to reduce emissions and noise output, as well as provide greater fuel efficiency. Additionally, there is a growing focus on improving overall ergonomics and user comfort. 

– Stephen Meriam, director of sales, Stihl Inc. 

The landscape market is benefiting from increased innovation and development of equipment and tools. Outdoor power product owners remain focused both on how to get the most value from their equipment and how to most effectively complete outdoor landscaping maintenance and projects. Because these factors drive buying habits, Honda produces a power product lineup to help make jobs easier – technologically innovative generators, lawn mowers, tillers, trimmers, pumps and snow blowers that offer the least amount of downtime, low cost of ownership, greatest efficiency and durability, along with the best fuel economy possible.

From giving consumers more leisure time to providing the ability to get more work done, Honda is focused on providing customers ease of use and efficiency. The future will continue in this direction with even more creative solutions, like greater connectivity and further improved product performance. 

– Gary Childress, senior manager, Honda Power Equipment

Rich online digital content that builds confidence in the brand and provides a trusted voice to the consumer continues to drive consideration and awareness of OPE brands. Consumers are also relying on product ratings and reviews to guide their purchase decisions. The trend toward battery-powered equipment continues to influence the marketplace.

– Barbara Roueche, brand manager, Troy-Bilt

There has been an increased focus on battery-powered solutions; however, it’s been a slower transition for professionals than it has been for consumers. Consumers have been quick to take advantage of battery-powered equipment and the benefits of not having to deal with mixing gas and oil or the general maintenance associated with gas-powered equipment. However, right now, many professionals continue to rely on their gas-powered equipment to get most of their jobs done because cordless technology has not advanced to a point yet where battery-powered tools can be the primary tool for all professional applications. However, with incredible motor, battery, and electronics advancements, we have battery-powered tools that have started to challenge that. 

As technology has advanced, professionals are starting to recognize the benefits of battery-powered equipment and are using these solutions as supplemental tools to their gas units. For example, when a crew is working early in the morning in a residential area or doesn’t want to bother people in a commercial setting, they’ll turn to battery-powered equipment due to the reduction in noise. Crews will also turn to battery-powered equipment when they’re working in municipalities and around hospitals that do not allow the operation of gas-powered equipment due to emissions. 

While the professional market is slower to adopt, those who are using battery-powered equipment are seeing the benefits right away: no gas, ease of use, less noise, less vibration, lighter weight, less maintenance, and lower operating costs.

– Tony Buxton, product marketing manager, Milwaukee Tool

Photo by Toro

At Toro, we are continually striving to find new and creative ways of delivering solutions to small and medium-sized contractors to help them operate more productively and profitably in all phases of their business, not just with equipment.

– Mitch Hoffman, marketing manager at Toro

Operator comfort, durability, and ease of maintenance are the features many landscapers say they value most. Operator comfort helps reduce operator fatigue, aiding employee retention. Durability promotes uptime and keeps crews on schedule. Ease of maintenance reduces the reliance on others to perform routine maintenance, saving time and money, adding to the bottom line.

– Tom Vachal, Kubota Senior Turf Product Manager

Photo by Ecolawn

More and more, we are witnessing the landscaping industry move forward with a more environmentally friendly approach to lawn maintenance. In an effort to go green, commercial landscapers are upping their topdressing game by spreading compost, sand, topsoil, etc. When speaking with our clients at trade shows, the general feedback we get is that going green is a no brainer. It’s not only important in a global context, but it has also become personal for most. Would you want your loved ones playing on sports fields or in parks fertilized with chemicals?

– Jerome DesRosiers, North American sales manager, Ecolawn Applicator

Operator comfort is one of the more prominent trends, as operators are requesting features that improve the operator experience. At John Deere, we continue to introduce features to address this trend. 

Productivity is another major need for our customers, especially as labor becomes more expensive and more difficult to find and retain.

Another trend we continue to see is the continued growth of electronic fuel injection (EFI) engines. Uptime and fuel-efficiency continue to be top concerns of professional landscape contractors, driving manufacturers to develop more solutions for equipment, such as EFI engines. Commonly used in smaller block engines, we are now seeing more and more options in the mid-block range and greater. Providing up to 25 percent more fuel savings, the benefits of EFI drive this trend.

As a leader in the commercial mowing space, we are committed to developing products that provide solutions to the challenges our customers face.

– Nick Minas, product manager, John Deere Commercial Mowing

Photo by Cub Cadet

Sleek designs, accessibility and efficiency are big trends we hear from end users in terms of needs. We invest heavily in consumer insights, while battery technology and EFI engines are two important trends we are seeing come to market. E-commerce and our Cub Cadet MyDealer Direct program, where we take e-commerce sales and deliver from a local dealer, has and will be a growing trend.

– Tom Rossman, senior director of sales, MTD Products Inc. (Cub Cadet)

Over the past two years, we’ve seen a huge growth in the adoption of robotics by professionals in the industry. As more and more landscapers embrace this trend, we will continue to develop products and services that offer them the features and solutions they need to optimize their jobs and minimize their carbon footprint. We’ve also seen a growing interest in robotics from consumers who want great lawns, more free time and smart, sustainable products. As part of this growing demand for smart products, we have focused on incorporating connectivity, another important industry trend, from robotic mowers all the way to our line of commercial wheeled products. 

Two other trends that are shaping our market are emission regulations and fuel savings. As such, we continue to push the boundaries with new fuel consumption technology and have seen a lot of success with our commercial battery products. More and more, professionals are recognizing the convenience and performance these products are offering and the importance of a sustainable future.  

– Earl Bennett, president of Husqvarna Brand Division North America

OPE: What factors are most impacting outdoor power equipment dealers and how they do business, and what advice do you have for OPE dealers?

Weather has been a key again this year, as it is every year. Late spring and a lot of moisture should set the industry up for a strong summer push. Outlook going forward is for continued growth and success with our brands.

– Brad Unruh, director of new product development, Excel Industries (Hustler)

Photo by Billy Goat Industries

We expect consolidation will continue to impact all sectors of the business as manufacturers, distributors, dealers and customers continue to grow and look to leverage larger scale and costs in a time of rising inflation due to low unemployment, higher wages and support cost, and added tariffs, etc.

– Pierre Pereira, director of sales, Billy Goat Industries

As mowers become more complex –with fuel injection and more complex electronics –it’s critical that our dealers invest in good training, and become increasingly specialized in the products they sell. 

–Ed Wright, CEO, Wright Mfg.

As an equipment manufacturer to the OPE industry, we like to equip our distributors and dealers with who we best serve and how we can be the right solution to a customer-facing issue. In line with that, we would recommend our network know their customers and applications and ask the right questions to provide the right solution. We strive to provide solutions for our customers that increase productivity and generate profits.

– Hannah Aure, business unit director, Echo Bear Cat

Providing conventional mowing solutions is a very competitive business sector; just look at the number of zero turns on the market. We would like to see more dealers looking at niche market products where they can earn higher margins.

Photo by Spider Mowers

They might have to focus on different applications and customers, thinking out of the box, investing in training and different ways of demonstrating product. However, if dealers were to offer customers more solutions, then Spider products, through their unique design and alternative applications, can open different doors with many customers who can then be offered the whole product portfolio of a dealer. 

ZT and Spider mowers complement each other in such a way that contractors can increase their business. ZTs can mow the flat and less severe sloping ground, and then Spider mowers can take over when the ZTs become unstable. The contractor can offer a better product, mowing more areas around a property, and increasing revenue. 

– Lubor Hladik, international sales manager, Spider Mowers

The labor shortage is currently impacting OPE dealer business by forcing managers and owners to wear multiple hats while trying to find the hardworking and technical skilled people they need to support their dealership and customers. Social media and online advertising are also key market trends that dealers need to understand as the market segment of the next generation continues to grow.

–Ron Scheffler, senior product manager, Bob-Cat

Innovation across the industry continues to progress –with more and more technologically advanced equipment coming to the market. It’s exciting, but also can be a burden for dealerships. Dealers, their sales teams and their maintenance personnel must constantly train and increase their knowledge to keep up with equipment innovation and a more informed, well-researched customer.

With our Kioti dealers, we collaborate on product line improvements and additions so we can help them meet their local market needs, and so they are also ready to support their customers with superior service after the sale. We encourage Kioti dealers to continuously enrich their teams’ knowledge on equipment models, specs and features, best maintenance practices, service efficiencies and more.

– Joel Hicks, senior product support manager, Kioti

Photo by Ryan

Investing in and training their teams, as they are critical to both short-term and long-term success. Relationships with customers are the cornerstone to any successful dealership, and the level of service you provide is the key differentiator in a positive or negative customer experience. People do business with people they enjoy doing business with. It’s important to make sure everyone has an enjoyable experience with you and your people every opportunity you have.

– Craig Ransavage, product manager for Ryan

The power of social media continues to enter into all marketing decisions. A video posted by one of our salesman recently had over 5,000 views in just a few days, and reached people in Ireland, England and Japan. Keeping customers informed via social media is a great way to keep them in your store. Also, it is so important for an OPE dealer to be the first point of contact when customers have questions or needs. Let the public know what equipment is out there and that they can get it at your location – show them it is local and they can get it from you today!

– Scott Sweeney, president, Seago International, Inc.

Photo by Steiner

Technology advancements will continue to provide opportunity if embraced by dealers, but they can also present challenges to those cautious to invest in understanding and supporting them. EFI-equipped engines are a great example of technology OPE dealers were careful to embrace, partially because dealers were not initially equipped to service EFI. But today, many dealers have adopted it because of demand created by consumers willing to pay the premium for EFI benefits, including performance. Dealers that refrain from offering emerging technology miss out on the rapid growth that comes once a technology is widely accepted by consumers. How many whole goods sales did dealers miss out on because they did not offer EFI; and did any of their customers take all their business elsewhere? What did that cost the dealer? I’m not advocating EFI is a must-have for dealers, but the importance of staying current with technology is becoming increasingly paramount. Change is inevitable. Electronic controls, sensors, displays, equipment tracking, and battery-powered equipment are good examples of other emerging technologies OPE dealers will continue to face in the years ahead. Dealers should budget for continuing education and investment in service equipment needed to keep up with new technologies. This will help them remain competitive and effectively service their customers or attract new ones. 

– Michael Slattery, director of product management, Schiller Grounds Care (Steiner)

Service will always be a huge factor in dealer success. With technologies like telematics and fleet management applications, dealers are able to monitor the status of customer equipment and be proactive in servicing their key customers. This means more service revenue and a better customer experience by ensuring minimal downtime.

– Ryan Anderson, skid-steer loader and compact track loader product marketing specialist for New Holland, and Joe Boufford, construction equipment marketing for New Holland

Photo by EGO Power+

Community ordinances clamping down on noisy gas equipment. Replacing gas power with battery technology reduces noise.

– Sarah Hohmann, brand manager EGO Power+

Like everyone, the rapid market rise and consumer acceptance of battery-powered products has surprised us. Handheld led the charge with low-priced, low-voltage products that satisfied many homeowners’ short runtime requirements. However in a few short years, more powerful handheld and wheeled products have come onto the market, so that even the most serious user can benefit from the convenience of battery without sacrificing runtime. We are meeting the challenge head on, and already a significant percentage of our sales are coming from battery-powered units.

Dealers also tell us that competition from the big box stores, and increasing impact from internet retail sites, make it difficult for them to make money in walk-behind machinery. Many opt out of this product category, as they can’t justify the time spent on making a sale when the return is so small. We suggest they support brands and models that are not available in those outlets that have unique features sought out by discerning customers tired of buying on price and ending up disappointed with their mowing experience. Masport offers the dealer a low buy-in at six units, and parts availability coming from Masport’s U.S. nationwide distributor, Power Distributors. This dealer-exclusive line relieves the dealer of the headache of having to worry about competing with the big box stores when it comes to push mowers.

– Steve Hughes, managing director, Masport Ltd

Photo by ASV

Many dealers are offering similar types of equipment. A unique product offering helps businesses differentiate themselves and draw in new customers. Dealers should investigate options to broaden their product range. 

While many include mid-size equipment in their fleets, the smallest and largest compact track loaders can open doors to new business. Our RT-25 and RT-40 are the industry’s smallest sit-in loaders, and are perfect for tight spaces such as residential areas. The RT-120 Forestry, on the other hand, delivers outstanding performance and power with demanding attachments, from brushcutters to milling attachments.

– Buck Storlie, product line manager at ASV Holdings Inc.

It may seem like online retailers and big box stores are a convenient option, but when it comes to outdoor power equipment sales, we are noticing a strong push to buy local and support independent retailers. Servicing dealers have continued to take back market share from the big box stores by offering a shopping experience that the big box stores and Amazon cannot match. 

Outstanding customer service is key. Our advice to dealers is to continue to improve their levels of customer service and show – not just tell – how the servicing dealer experience is crucial for outdoor power equipment purchases. 

Stihl dealers provide hands-on product knowledge, operating instructions, and a level of service that simply cannot be replaced by the online-only model, and we encourage our dealers to keep learning and improving their product knowledge.

On our end, Stihl Inc. is adapting by bringing the latest technology and products to the market and by supporting our servicing dealers with comprehensive training and innovative marketing resources to meet demands and attract new customers.

Dealers should also take advantage of the e-commerce trend. This year, Stihl extended our Stihl Express offering for dealers to take advantage of buy online, pick-up in store options for their customers. This gives their customers the convenience of e-commerce while continuing to drive customers through their doors. 

– Stephen Meriam, director of sales, Stihl Inc. 

Photo by Honda Power Equipment

OPE dealers need to ensure that they are a trusted retailer in the marketplace, along with having helpful and knowledgeable staff. Additionally, because more than 60 percent of potential buyers notice point of purchase (POP) displays at dealers, this POP information needs to be clean, fresh and positioned correctly. Finally, it is important that outdoor power product buyers/owners understand the value of onsite equipment maintenance and repair that dealers offer.

– Gary Childress, senior manager, Honda Power Equipment

The shift from gas to battery-powered solutions will continue to gain momentum, especially as technology advancements are made to deliver increased performance. OPE dealers are beginning to recognize the system effect with their customers who have invested in a cordless system – once a user is installed within a system, they are more likely to be a repeat customer and expand their collection. 

We strongly suggest that dealers have an offering of battery-powered products and put a focus on communicating what a cordless system will deliver for a user – from noise and maintenance reduction to ease of use. We also encourage dealers to set up product demonstrations to reveal the capabilities of premium battery-powered tools to alleviate any skepticism on performance. 

– Tony Buxton, product marketing manager, Milwaukee Tool

The tight labor market continues to be a factor, as contractors look for more productive machines that require less labor. Additionally, unseasonably cold and wet weather in parts of the country slowed the beginning of the season, but things are starting to pick up across the country now as the weather improves.

– Mitch Hoffman, marketing manager at Toro

Photo by Kubota

We feel dealers need to continue to focus on servicing their customers; customers want their products to be repaired quickly so they can get back to the job at hand. We have been helping our dealers learn what the key factors are that will make their customers raving fans of the dealership. Word of mouth goes a long way to growing the dealership appeal in their market area.

– Tom Vachal, Kubota Senior Turf Product Manager

Our goal is to help dealers operate successfully. As a manufacturer, we do this by focusing on building a strong distribution network. We have distributors located across the U.S. to ensure that dealers receive efficient, quality service.

– Jerome DesRosiers, North American sales manager, Ecolawn Applicator

Photo by John Deere

A top concern for professional landscape contractors continues to be service and support. As a dealer, it is important to provide those offerings so you are able to support customers. Take the time to understand their needs, and develop a relationship with your customers. In this competitive industry, it is important to be a partner that a landscaper can depend on.

– Nick Minas, product manager, John Deere Commercial Mowing

Employees are the core of the dealer business. Keeping good, and retaining new OPEI employees are big factors our dealers face, especially with technicians. We have dealers who recruit, support and teach at local trade schools and even high schools within their communities, which is a great practice. We are supporting these efforts with increased focus on an online, on-demand learning management system from Cub Cadet, which will help train new dealership employees and technicians.

– Tom Rossman, senior director of sales, MTD Products Inc. (Cub Cadet)

Photo by Husqvarna

Dealers are no longer just sellers of equipment. They are becoming consultants to customers, advising on how to maximize productivity and efficiency. As such, Husqvarna’s advice is for dealers to embrace new technologies and marketing methods. Dealers should continue to educate themselves and their employees on new products and innovations to ensure they can serve as even greater resources to their customers.

With our Dealer Business Excellence Program, which is exclusive to all Husqvarna dealers, we can work closely with dealers to help them a create a better, more efficient business. We’ve also incorporated them into our service offerings to help them become full-service providers. Husqvarna dealers act as consultants on individual properties and provide custom installations for products such as the Husqvarna Automower robotic mower. As we continue to grow and innovate as a company, we want to do the same for our dealers and take them along with us.

– Earl Bennett, president of Husqvarna Brand Division North America

OPE: What is your outlook for the remainder of 2019 and beyond?

The future looks strong. We continue to focus on bringing new, innovative products to the market.

– Brad Unruh, director of new product development, Excel Industries (Hustler)

We continue to have a positive outlook for the next two years, driven by a strong market, pro-business environment, and a strong portfolio; but tempered somewhat by labor and inflationary concerns.

– Pierre Pereira, director of sales, Billy Goat Industries

Photo by Wright Mfg.

We continue to see available labor as a major concern, causing upward pressure on the cost per cut.

–Ed Wright, CEO, Wright Mfg.

We are very optimistic thus far in 2019 that this will be a good year for our industry. As everyone knows, we are heavily reliant on Mother Nature, so if she is kind the remainder of 2019, we look forward to a good year!

– Hannah Aure, business unit director, Echo Bear Cat

Without a doubt, we can now see that our climate is getting more extreme, with a significant change of weather patterns, even in Europe. This will force local governments, municipalities and the farming community into building more retention lakes, dams, etc., which will create more potential for remote-controlled mowers going forward.

There is a growing body of people concerned about soil erosion on steep slopes. Spider is a perfect solution for steep slope maintenance, where we have received numerous reports claiming that they have a very positive impact on slope stabilization. One particular customer in Australia would spend more money in a single year on dam wall stabilization than the cost of a new Spider ILD02 mower. He purchased a Spider last season, and now has no issues with the soil erosion and no extra costs connected to it. Regularly mowing the slopes has increased the root development of the grass and stabilized the turf. 

The solar industry is providing a fast-growing application for Spider, and we have developed a dedicated model for maintenance of the PV stations/solar farms. Our Spider 2SGS can easily maneuver under and around the PV panels, providing an effective solution for solar farm operators. 

Last but not least, work health and safety are becoming more important. Every mowing accident, and subsequent litigation process, drives the use of specialized machinery on steep or inaccessible terrains.

– Lubor Hladik, international sales manager, Spider Mowers

As long as the economy and weather continue to be favorable, we anticipate growth in the commercial and entry-level commercial market in 2019 – especially with our new professional mower lineup and the characteristics that our mowers have. 

– Ron Scheffler, senior product manager, Bob-Cat

Kioti is growing. We launched new tractors and UTVs last year, and our ZTR mower line this year. Due to demand, we’re expanding our U.S. headquarters and have opened a new distribution center in Canada for equipment and parts. These investments are indicative of our outlook on the future, dedication to outpace growth within industry and longstanding support for our dealers. With these investments and infrastructure improvements, we are establishing ourselves as a complete solution for dealers in the compact and utility market.

– Joel Hicks, senior product support manager, Kioti

Our outlook at Ryan Turf continues to be extremely optimistic with the consistency of the current economy and the consumer confidence being derived from it. We see solid opportunity the rest of the year, and well beyond, if things continue to remain how they have been or get even better. We are absolutely looking forward to it, and hope the entire industry can benefit from growth for years to come.

– Craig Ransavage, product manager for Ryan

The economy is strong and I think that is influencing buyers. We are seeing customers getting bigger equipment as budgets are growing. We are also hearing more questions about parts availability and initial quality – buyers are becoming more informed prior to the purchase. Online purchasing options are continuing to grow, and their policies are affecting what customers expect.

 – Scott Sweeney, president, Seago International, Inc.

The year shows great promise after a strong first half. New product introductions are fueling sales, while our sales force is adding new dealers as part of a strategic plan to expand Steiner’s dealer network domestically and internationally. Increasing awareness to the versatility of the Steiner tractor is attracting new customer segments. To help with that awareness, a new Steiner website launched in July. As we look beyond 2019, Steiner anticipates steady growth through expansion plans for its dealer network and range of tractors and specialty attachments serving private and commercial customers.

– Michael Slattery, director of product management, Schiller Grounds Care (Steiner)

We continue to see fair growth in the light construction equipment market. The market remains highly competitive. Opportunities exist for dealers to strengthen their position. Opportunities like rental and outside sales initiatives will help a dealer maintain their current business, and seize opportunities that that might not have been available to them in the past.

– Ryan Anderson, skid-steer loader and compact track loader product marketing specialist for New Holland, and Joe Boufford, construction equipment marketing for New Holland

The future is bright. Cordless growth will continue, and battery will be the dominant power source within a few years.

– Sarah Hohmann, brand manager EGO Power+

We are making good progress signing new dealers and growing our business with existing customers as the Masport name continues to be recognized as a viable option in the dealer push mower market. Weather plays a large part in the success of the mower market, and, as always, there are ups and downs in the season with parts of the country either getting too much rain or not enough. We have increased our sales over last year in almost every month this season, and are set to enjoy our best growth in a number of years. Last season kicked on in many regions well into the fall. There’s no reason to think that this won’t be the case this year as well, allowing dealers a longer selling season. 

– Steve Hughes, managing director, Masport Ltd

The OPE industry is consistently affected by seasonal changes. With improved spring weather conditions, as compared to 2018, we are seeing better retail activity for OPE in most of the country. We are hopeful that this trend will continue through the rest of 2019.

Over the past year, the market share of Stihl equipment has increased significantly, and we have introduced a number of new consumer-oriented battery-powered products to continue to meet demand in this segment of the market. 

Robotic and connected products are about to be introduced into the professional landscaping industry, as well as the consumer segment. These products are not short-term trends; they are here to stay!

– Stephen Meriam, director of sales, Stihl Inc.

Whether it is electrification of products, further refinements in the internal combustion engine, or propulsion advancements, diversification in how outdoor power equipment products generate power is a trend marking 2019. Overall, the outdoor power products business is healthy – driven by factors such as a booming housing market and continued economic growth nationwide. With that, sales of outdoor power products for both residential and commercial use continue to be an emphasis for Honda Power Equipment, and our outlook is positive.

Furthermore, the outdoor power products business is a very seasonal one, and sales for such are driven largely by weather patterns and weather events. To illustrate, May 2019 was a slower sales month for some Honda Power Equipment product lines because of weather extremes, regional flooding, and a late start to warmer temperatures in most parts of the U.S. But as we get into the heart of the summer season and hotter temperatures, customers are looking to the reliability, efficiency and quiet performance of the full array of Honda outdoor power equipment and general-purpose engines to maximize recreation time, productivity and make the most of their outdoor experiences.

– Gary Childress, senior manager, Honda Power Equipment

Demand for mowers is expected to be positive for the 2019 season compared to 2018, with regional opportunities this June-August. A slower start to the snow season in the Northeast and Great Lakes regions, but a positive snow season overall is expected, with a snowy December 2019 for much of the northern tier of the U.S. (information obtained from Planalytics, of which MTD is a client).

– Barbara Roueche, brand manager, Troy-Bilt

We saw strong success throughout the lawn maintenance season, and we anticipate this momentum to continue into fall cleanup. We’ve continued to be committed to improving productivity by providing performance-driven and trade-focused solutions so users can complete an entire day’s work with one battery system. As mentioned before, we foresee battery-powered technology continuing to take market share from gas-powered products. While we can’t share details of our future product roadmap, rest assured we will continue to leverage our technologies to provide true productivity enhancements. 

– Tony Buxton, product marketing manager, Milwaukee Tool

Weather trends notwithstanding, we see a lot of strong opportunities for continued growth on Toro’s line of highly productive and differentiated products. From the popular 7500-D 96-inch diesel, to the industry’s only all-season stand-on in the GrandStand Multi-Force, we look to continue the momentum generated this spring through summer and fall.

– Mitch Hoffman, marketing manager at Toro

I believe products that reduce time for the commercial contractor will be the next area of development for mower industry. More and more customers are using commercial contactors for turf maintenance, and, as the demand grows, they will need to reduce time on the job to be competitive.

– Tom Vachal, Kubota Senior Turf Product Manager

I’d like to see the eco-friendly trend continue on, and I believe that it will, as more and more by-laws are being put into place regarding chemical fertilizers.

– Jerome DesRosiers, North American sales manager, Ecolawn Applicator

We have a positive outlook for the remainder of 2019. Many professional landscapers are expecting to grow their business in the coming year. In addition, our new product offerings have created a lot of excitement within the industry, so we’re looking forward to another successful year.

– Nick Minas, product manager, John Deere Commercial Mowing

Cub Cadet’s dealer business has doubled in the last five years, and we are extremely optimistic about the remainder of 2019 and the next few years. There are huge opportunities in battery, residential zero-turns and professional products, coupled with a great supporting and seasoned sales staff that will help drive dealer success.

– Tom Rossman, senior director of sales, MTD Products Inc. (Cub Cadet)

Husqvarna is incredibly optimistic about the coming year and what’s in store for the industry. Moving forward, we expect to see a greater push toward sustainability. We will continue to lead the industry in this endeavor as we stay on the forefront of innovation, developing technology that allows us to lower emissions while maintaining high performance. As part of this push toward sustainability, we also expect to see continued growth in the adoption of robotics and other battery-powered equipment across the U.S. for both consumers and professionals. 

Along with improved technology, we will see a higher demand for connectivity. For consumers, that means having products that can seamlessly integrate into their smart homes. For professionals, that means being able to track all equipment from anywhere in one place, having easier access to service and having efficient products that work together to provide full fleet solutions.

– Earl Bennett, president of Husqvarna Brand Division North America

Equipment Trends 2019: Innovations

As part of our Equipment Trends 2019 coverage, the manufacturers that responded to the Equipment Trends Q&A shared information regarding their latest equipment and any new products/upgrades coming soon.

Hustler

The Hustler Raptor SDX is the biggest, strongest, toughest mower in the Raptor Family. A commercial-quality mower built for the toughest residential yards up to three acres in size, it features 10-gauge heavy-duty steel decks, at sizes up to 60-inches, as well as 22-inch Big Bite rear tires for unsurpassed traction, and a premium bolstered seat with internal suspension for the ultimate in comfort.

The Dash is Hustler Turf’s most compact residential mower designed to get the job done at an affordable price. A smaller design makes it ideal for garage storage and fitting through tight spaces with ease. 

With top quality products that meet the demands of the toughest jobs, Hustler pressure washers are strong, durable machines that provide a superior cleaning experience. Hustler pressure washers include the HH3324, HH3725, HH4035, HH4240 and HH4440.

Billy Goat Industries

Billy Goat’s award-winning 25-inch reciprocating Plugr aerator features self-propelled rear-wheel hydro-drive and front caster wheels for the ultimate in in-ground turning (no lifting), commercial productivity and product innovation. The unit features patent-pending EZ Lift and EZ Drop for simple aeration and uninterrupted aeration.

Billy Goat also announced its Next Gen Debris Loader series including 13, 14, 18, 29 and 37 hp., all with a new 63-percent-thicker discharge elbow designed for extended durability and increased life.

Additionally Billy Goat’s new Hurricane zero-turn stand-on blower rounds out the Force walk-behind blower lineup. These new units extend Billy Goat’s blower lineup range from 6 to 35 hp. 

Billy Goat’s Post Hole Auger is a dedicated self-propelled auger featuring the highest bit torque in its class; lift assist struts and a patent-pending Z-Link for straight line drilling with limited bit re-positioning. 

Wright Mfg.

Starting Spring 2020, Wright Mfg. will extend its Stander B series stand-on mower line to include a 36-inch deck. This provides users with a more affordable, compact stand-on rider for mowing in tight backyard areas.

Echo Bear Cat

Echo Bear Cat launched its CH9540HP model, adding breadth to its PTO chipper line. The CH9540HP is specifically designed to work with higher-horsepower tractors (50 to 100 hp.), which will increase user productivity. The model is available with either a regular discharge chute or a low-profile chute for grove/orchard discharge. Echo Bear Cat also has an exciting new product family coming to market in late 2019 that will increase available products to serve its current customer base with quality Echo Bear Cat equipment. Stay tuned for details.

Spider Mowers

One of Spider’s main areas is to continue with product updates on the Spider ILD02 and 2SGS to ensure that both mowers are even more reliable. Updates are primarily based on feedback form Spider’s U.S. customer base. 

Spider’s new product is the Spider XLINER, which brings slope mowing solutions in a smaller and less expensive model. It is constructed from commercial parts (hydraulic system, controls, engine) and features excellent maneuverability on smaller scaled difficult terrains. Spider is organizing road shows to demonstrate the current product portfolio together with the new machine. 

Bob-Cat

Bob-Cat launched five new commercial mower families for 2019. Starting with its four new sit-down models – from the ProCat 5000 mower up to the Predator-Pro 7000 mower – the new products have a brand-new operator interface. New control locations, almond shaped control levers, ergonomically friendly operations and ease of use, tool-less adjustments, and full mechanical suspension seats all provide aid and comfort to the commercial cutters for their full work days.

The fifth new commercial mower is Bob-Cat’s new QuickCat 4000 stand-on mower that offers a taller operator tower, enhanced dampened controls, tool-free adjustments, wider front caster wheels, and improved control locations. The QuickCat 4000 comes with Bob-Cat’s DuraDeck cutting system, from 36 to 61 inches. 

Bob-Cat’s XRZ Pro RS ZT mower family now includes two new models with Kawasaki FX850 series engines. These new models come with a 52- or 61-inch TufDeck Pro cutting system. 

Kioti

This spring, Kioti began shipping its full line of zero turn radius mowers to dealers throughout North America. This brand-new offering includes four series – the ZXR, ZXR SE, ZXC and ZXC SE – with a total of 12 riding mower models. The ZXC and ZXC SE Series mowers were created specifically for professionals, featuring superior value and reliability for those who make a living working the turf all day long. All aspects of these mowers were built with the operator in mind – from easy-to-reach controls and ergonomically designed seating to a digital control panel with keyless start and simple dial-type deck height adjustment.

Ryan

The Ryan turf team has been working hard to develop an exciting new product it hopes to show in fall 2019 and deliver in early 2020. Information was unavailable at press time, but details will be communicated when ready.

Seago International, Inc.

For 2019, Seago will be introducing the PortaPump back into the market. It is a 33-gpm fully self-contained, portable pumping station. Powered by a Honda GX-35 engine, it is a take-anywhere and pump-anything machine that is incredibly portable and powerful. Also, later in the year, Seago will be releasing the newest version of its F-15 Air Force Hover Mower – the only two-stroke powered hover mower on the market.

Steiner

The Steiner 450DX tractor is new to Steiner’s 2019 line up. The 450DX provides a new gasoline power platform to the Steiner tractor family with a 25-hp. Vanguard engine. The 450DX also offers more options to customize for the needs of commercial, municipal or private users. Like other 450 Steiner tractor models, the 450DX features the Steiner QuickHitch attachment system for fast and easy change-out of more than 25 popular Steiner attachments. The four-wheel drive and an articulated oscillating frame with optional dual tires also make the 450DX ideal for working in wet, soft ground conditions, on slopes, or on rough terrain.

Steiner also introduced the TR270 Terra Rake in 2019. The Terra Rake, also commonly referred to as a landscape rake, includes large adjustable caster wheels, mechanical top link to adjust for/aft tine angle, and a hydraulic cylinder to adjust left/right rake angle from the seat of the Steiner tractor.

New Holland

New Holland introduced a 4-way angle blade option beginning on the E37C model – an ideal fit for landscapers. The new 4-way blade can be angled left or right 25 degrees in addition to being raised and lowered to the desired cutting depth. The addition of this feature allows for more efficient backfilling by allowing the machine to travel parallel with the trench as opposed to perpendicular. It increases the machine’s versatility in confined working conditions by reducing the amount of times the end user needs to reposition the machine. The blade features reversible cutting edges that reduce maintenance time and replacement costs. The E37C combines power, performance and versatility to increase productivity on the jobsite. C Series excavators feature a compact design and zero/short tail swing, enabling workers to dig, fill and grade in the most confined and congested areas. 

Ego Power+

The Ego Nexus Power Station, a battery-powered inverter, is a replacement for compact gas generators. WiFi and BLE connections not only make this product smart, but make controlling outlets and USB connections from anywhere possible. The flexible design allows users to harness power from any Ego Power+ ARC lithium battery, delivering clean, pure sine wave power for hours or even days. The Nexus Power Station uses anywhere from one to four batteries to deliver power, and when power is restored, it doubles as a charger for the 56V ARC lithium batteries. 

Additionally Ego introduced its Commercial Series line of battery-powered outdoor power equipment that delivers the power of professional gas equipment and all day runtime. It features a heavy-duty, yet lightweight (20 pounds) backpack with between five and seven hours of continuous runtime (depending on the tool); fast recharging – just 3.5 hours from 0 to 100 percent; and very quiet operation. 

Masport Ltd

Masport will introduce to dealers in all states a BBC version of its highly successful professional “Contractor“ 21-inch gasoline-powered walk-behind mower. The BBC model will be available in two engine options – the Honda GXV160 and the B&S Series 850. With an improved transmission shaft configuration and new, stronger axles, the Contractor BBC will be a worthy addition to the Masport product lineup.

ASV

ASV recently introduced its newest Posi-Track compact track loader, the VT-70 High Output. The mid-frame, vertical lift loader features high torque and an efficient hydraulic system for maximum performance with even the heaviest and most demanding attachments. That means more productivity for ASV customers in all applications. The VT-70 High Output features unmatched serviceability, high speed and a vertical lift loader linkage for lift, carry and load tasks.

ASV is also working on bringing the Australia-based Schibeci milling head to the U.S. ASV’s RT-120 compact track loader is the only machine on the market that can effectively run the largest of the demanding attachments. Together, the attachment and loader quickly complete jobs at a fraction of what it would cost to buy and transport a dedicated milling machine. Plus, the loader can then be used for other applications on the jobsite. 

Stihl Inc.

Stihl has a wide range of new products forthcoming in 2019 to include both battery- and gasoline-powered equipment:

As part of the continued expansion of the Stihl AP Battery Series, earlier this year, Stihl introduced the KMA 130 R KombiMotor, which gives professionals the ability to trim, prune, edge, clean, cultivate, and more with 13 optional attachments – all without gas or exhaust emissions.

Stihl engineers are exceeding expectations and spearheading new innovations in battery product technology with the continued expansion of the Stihl Battery Series.

In addition, gasoline-powered equipment will remain a significant part of Stihl’s investment in groundbreaking design and engineering, with new products for professionals slated for release in the near future. 

Later this year, Stihl will release the MS 500i chain saw, the world’s first chain saw with fuel-injection technology that is designed for high performance, impressive acceleration and low weight.

Honda Power Equipment

The redesigned Honda HRX Series, which went on sale in January 2019, features three significant areas of enhancements:

  • An all-new Honda GCV200 engine that delivers 10 percent more power and torque to the mower’s blades, to cut taller and thicker grass without stalling.
  • A streamlined, innovative engine layout that saves time by making it easier for the user to fill the fuel tank, monitor and change the oil, and access the sparkplug and air cleaner.
  • Innovative, modern styling, reflecting similar sleek, aerodynamic designs that can be seen across other Honda product lines.

Honda expanded its GX Series V-Twin model lineup with the introduction of iGX700/iGXV700 and iGX800/iGXV800 general-purpose engines that offer versatile power, expanding into larger and more demanding commercial applications for greater adaptability with excellent fuel efficiency in a compact package. 

The all-new, high-output Honda GX50 expands the company’s Mini-Four Stroke lineup with a more powerful model. 

Troy-Bilt

Troy-Bilt introduced the Mustang Z42 and Z46, which are built with a full-length, fully welded, tubular solid steel frame – designed to absorb impact, provide maximum stability and covered by a limited lifetime warranty. The Mustang Z42 and Z46 offer a choice of 42- or 46-inch cutting decks (models with larger deck sizes available in 2020).

Milwaukee Tool

Milwaukee Tool recently launched its new M18 Fuel Quik-Lok attachment system. The system is powered by an M18 Fuel powerhead, and is compatible with multiple attachments including a string trimmer, edger, pole saw and hedge trimmer. It delivers the versatility to complete a wide range of applications, as users can easily swap between the different attachments.

Milwaukee Tool also introduced the Switch Tank interchangeable sprayer and water supply system. This system delivers an interchangeable tank design that covers a wide range of users and applications. The Switch Tank M18 powered base is compatible with three different 4-gallon tank assemblies: a pesticide sprayer, a concrete sprayer, and a water supply. The pesticide sprayer delivers instant, constant, and adjustable pressure with up to 120 psi and a 25-foot spray distance. It is designed to be used with common landscape maintenance chemicals and features a dual diaphragm pump and Viton seals.

Toro

Toro is continuing to expand its product offerings in the 30-inch heavy-duty walk category. This year, Toro is launching two new TurfMaster HDX models. These new 30-inch mowers are built to withstand the daily demands of a landscape contractor, with upgraded transmissions, heavier-duty components, and multiple engine options. The TurfMaster HDX has the power and features to deliver high-end performance even in thick turf, or dealing with hilly terrain.

Kubota

Kubota added three new Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) models to its popular Z700 Series in 2018, bringing a total of nine mowers to the line. The Z700 Series is powered by Kohler Command Pro engines and Kawasaki’s industry-proven FX and FX EFI engines. Each model features a durable eight-gauge steel 48-, 54- or 60-inch deck, six inches deep, allowing for outstanding stability and an efficient, high-quality cut. The Z700 Series offers a wide operator station, and a premium adjustable suspension seat for comfort and reduced fatigue during long jobs.

Kubota’s new SZ stand-on mowers series is comprised of three models including the SZ19-36, SZ22-48 and the SZ26-52. The new stand-on mowers are designed for properties with narrow lawns that can’t be mowed with zero-turn mowers. The SZ Series is equipped with Kawasaki FX and FT Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) commercial engines and a hydro-gear transmission.

Ecolawn Applicator

Ecolawn recently launched the ECO 600T, which is Ecolawn’s biggest unit in terms of capacity. It is a 3-point hitch attachment PTO drive, so it fits on any kind of tractor. The ECO 600T 3-point hitch top dresser attachment is unique in Ecolawn Applicator’s line of broadcast top dressers. Equipped with a category II, 3-point hitch and PTO drive, the ECO 600T makes handling heavier products feasible without sacrificing maneuverability or ease of operation. It has been designed with a hydraulic flow-gate system, for effortless adjustability directly from the driver’s seat. Whether applying compost, sand, soil, or a custom blend; the ECO 600T’s large capacity, rear-delivery hopper (22 cubic feet) broadcasts bulk material in a 180-degree arc (up to 22 feet wide), making top dressing quick, smooth, and effortless. 

John Deere

John Deere recently unveiled two new products: the M and R Series commercial walk-behind mowers, and the Z994R Diesel ZTrak zero-turn mower.

The M and R Series commercial walk behinds feature completely redesigned controls and improved weight distribution, enhancing operator comfort and requiring less effort to raise the front end of the mower. In addition, the R Series offers 8.5 inches of ground clearance, minimizing the interference with curbs, and reducing the risk of property damage.

The Z994R mower is powered by a three-cylinder, liquid-cooled Final Tier 4 diesel engine. The high-torque, low-emission diesel engine provides power for tough conditions with low vibration and noise levels. The Z994R is equipped with a single 11.5-U.S.-gallon diesel fuel tank with an easy-to-read fuel gauge, and three seat options. All seat options feature the ComfortGlide fore/aft suspension that provides up to two inches of fore and aft travel to absorb bumps for enhanced ride quality.

Cub Cadet

Cub Cadet launched its newest residential zero-turn lawn mower, the Ultima Series. Cub Cadet combined strength, durability, comfort, cut quality and style to raise the bar in the residential zero-turn category. Cub Cadet’s dealer base can’t keep enough of these in stock and consumers are raving about it in online reviews. It brings to the table a best-in-class cut, a comfortable ride and a compelling, automotive-inspired design that captures attention.

For commercial landscapers Cub Cadet unveiled the PRO Z 972 SD, a dual-wheeled professional zero-turn mower that has the capability of operating on slopes of up to 25 degrees, or 46 percent of grade. This allows operators to mow confidently and accurately across hills horizontally.

On the horizon is a line of electric tractors, which are powered by lithium-ion batteries. These build on the same strength, durability and performance of Cub Cadet’s existing tractors, but offer quieter operation, extended runtimes and hassle-free maintenance.

Husqvarna

Husqvarna has introduced many new exciting products for 2019. 

Husqvarna’s five new chain saws were redesigned from scratch, resulting in a new level of cutting capacity, maneuverability and endurance. Combined with Husqvarna’s new performance-optimizing X-Cut chain saw chains; lighter, more durable X-Force chain saw bars; and a new line of arborist essentials, Husqvarna offers professional arborists a full suite of solutions.

Husqvarna’s new line of gas-powered hedge trimmers offers productivity and durability, allowing commercial landscapers to maximize their cutting work. The line features higher cutting capacity due to a special knife design and gear ratio, efficient air filtration through a two-stage air filter and best handling through a well-balanced overall design.

Additionally, Husqvarna has added new commercial models designed for professional landscapers and high-cut consumers models to its Automower robotic mower lineup. Husqvarna also introduced new backpack batteries and a new battery-powered pole saw.

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