Claas dealers examine the company's new 8000-7000 series combines during a launch event in Nebraska July 15.
It’s part of the company’s Lexion 7000-8000 series, which was designed for North American farming operations
OMAHA, Neb. — The launch of a new Claas combine was perhaps the worst kept secret in the business, at least among farm equipment dealers. Officially launched Aug. 1, the 7000-8000 series nevertheless had a few features that intrigued even the dealers present for the launch event.
With 610 horsepower, the Claas Lexion 8800 qualifies as a Class 10 machine, replacing the model 780 that has 570 h.p. The new line has the industry’s largest grain tank, at 510 bushels, and can unload at speeds up to five bu. per second.
Blake McOllough, Claas product manager for combines, said class designations based on horsepower rather than capacity aren’t the best measure for the new machines.
“If you think about a factory, a bigger factory is going to push out more product, whatever it’s doing. So when you look at our machine, you look at the threshing area as well as the separation and cleaning area, they’re all industry leading per class size. And so you get that bigger factory, you’re automatically going to have more output.”
Available from the factory on tracks or tires, the new combine series has road speeds up to 40 km-h. The Caterpillar engines used in some Lexion models will be replaced with Mercedes and Man models.
As well, Claas will abandon the yellow colour scheme derived from its previous affiliation with Caterpillar. It will instead sport the bright green, yellow and white of other Claas machine lines.
However, farmers who consider paint colour to be a major aspect of their buying decisions are not the key targets for the company’s new marketing strategy, said Eric Raby, Claas of America president and general manager of sales.
“We want to be the business-minded manufacturer for these business-minded producers, and obviously that goes well beyond equipment,” he said.
“If the customer wants to know how we compare, we don’t.… Being different is really our core competency and in my mind that’s what makes us better.”
His comment on target buyers was echoed by Claas marketing specialist Jenna Zeorian.
“We know that our customer for Claas as a whole, but also for the Lexion combine itself, they’re the business-minded owner,” she said.
“We know that our owner-operator prospect, they care more about the value of the machine than the colour of it.”
The new line of combines now on the ground comprises pre-series machines. Full production will begin in 2020.
McOllough said it is specifically designed and engineered for North America, with the power, grain handling efficiency and higher reliability that farmers asked for. The line has an improved threshing system called the APS Synflow Hybrid System. Company data indicates that the system allows the machines to harvest more acres per hour than other combines on the market — more than 20 acres per hour.
“It’s going to give us that 10 percent more out of that same horsepower machine, which is huge. That’s almost like jumping 50 horsepower is what you need to usually get that 10 percent.… That’s a big money saver, right there,” said McOllough.
A larger threshing area and more separation action increased the capacity and the output, he added. Customers asked for a wide-chassis machine, which Claas brought forward in the 8600 with 466 h.p. It replaces the Lexion 750, which has 456 h.p.
“We’re going to have the lowest horsepower wide chassis in the world,” said McOllough.
Narrow chassis models are also part of the new line.
Class 8 machines make up about 45 percent of the North American combine market, so those are likely the biggest growth market for Claas.
Data on tests of the new line show better fuel efficiency than competitors. McOllough said it averages 1.1 gallons per acre across all crop conditions, made possible through dynamic power that ensures the right amount of fuel for the engine load.
“You have the power when you need it and you have the low fuel usage when you don’t,” he said, enabling operators to push the machine harder and reduce the time spent on harvest.
Regarding the larger grain tank and unloading auger, Claas data indicates it will allow fewer unloads due to greater distance that can be travelled before tank fill. Those attributes were gained by re-engineering the entire machine.
“It’s a completely new machine,” said Zeorian.
“It’s not just ‘slap a new decal on the side and add a bigger grain tank.’ It’s a new machine.”
Added McOllough: “It’s called a Lexion and of course we want to build on that tradition, of the Lexion and the reputation it has, but this is a new machine. They could easily have called it something else if they wanted to…. This is as excited as you can be about a combine coming to North America.”
The larger grain tank has metal corners but canvas sides that fold down to meet height restrictions on roadways.
To meet its goals of precision, the new line employs the CEMOS (Claas Electronic Machine Optimization System) technology first released in 2013. It allows the combines to automatically set the machine on the fly for each particular crop and condition, using an array of constantly monitored sensors.
“This is variable rate harvesting,” said McOllough.
“We’re harvesting at the rate it needs to for that exact condition and that exact crop. We’re going to use the machine we have better. And what we mean by better, 10 percent more throughput, 30 percent less foreign matter in the grain tank and 58 percent less grain loss” compared to a manual operator with the same header and same conditions.
CEMOS takes guesswork out of the equation, along with the need for experienced operators to exit the cab and make adjustments.
“We know where the farming industry is going. Labour is getting harder to find, it’s getting more expensive. It’s hard to find an operator. You can find drivers (but) you cannot find operators like you used to.”
An integrated lubrication system eliminates the need for daily greasing and a dynamic cooling system reduces dust build-up.
Claas has fewer dealerships and related service than some other product lines on the Prairies. To compensate, several years ago it devised an “on your farm” parts system that allows customers to keep an array of parts on the farm and pay only for those that are used. Dealers provide a suggested list of high-wear parts that owners can customize as desired.
What about the price of the new Lexions? McOllough said he’s spent a lot of time on that.
“Our pricing is going to be well below the premium we should be getting for the performance we’re putting out. So we’re going to be very, very near the competition. We’re not going to be exactly on because we believe that our products perform.”