Mower Trends 2017

Outdoor Power Equipment (OPE) shares the latest mower trends in a Q&A conducted by sister publication Landscape and Irrigation (L&I) with experts from some of the industry’s largest commercial mower manufacturers. L&I received the following written responses Jan. 10-30, 2017:

L&I: Please tell us about your latest commercial mowers, and what landscape professionals need to know about your equipment heading into 2017.

We’re continuing to re-launch our entire lineup of professional zero-turn mowers. Last year, we introduced the all-new Pro-Turn 200 and 400 series, and we followed up this year with the Pro-Turn and Pro-Turn 100, which rounds out the line. We’re excited about the Pro-Turn and Pro-Turn 100 launches this year because they’re available at a more entry-level price point for landscape professionals, but still incorporate many of the great features on the 200 and 400 series models. The new line has a new look and feel, better ergonomics and more appropriately fits our brand identity going forward. And what’s great is that while they look and feel better, they perform better too. Improvements like our deck enhancements, constant belt tension system and deck height adjustment system make these machines more durable and more efficient for crews that are cutting all day, every day. Another thing that we we’re really excited about for 2017 is the launch of Yamaha’s MX-V EFI engines. Gravely was actually the launch partner for that project, and we spent years with the team from Yamaha testing these engines to make sure that they were up to the industry standard. This year, the new engines are available on most of our Pro-Turn 200 and 400 models, and we encourage landscape professionals to head to their local dealer for a test ride. We think they will be impressed with the performance.
— Matt Medden, Ariens Company VP of marketing

BOB-CAT has made several strides this year in its ProCat and Predator-Pro commercial mower families. A deeper deck design on our 61-inch models, called the DuraDeck XF, is chief among them. This cutting system aids the overall quality of cut through improved clippings disbursement and deck cleanliness at the end of a long day. Smoother controls and handling are now available in these families across the board, as well as increased horsepower on certain models. Our Zero-T drive tires are exclusive to BOB-CAT, and can now be found on all our products. These tires have improved grip on hillsides; better puncture resistance; fast, tight turns without turf damage; and better self cleaning than other tires in the marketplace. BOB-CAT also launched a new stand-on mower, the QuickCat 36-inch mower. This mower has similar features as the larger QuickCat models, just in a tighter package. It is a true commercial mower backed by our Mow With Confidence warranty of 6 years or 2,000 hours.
BOB-CAT’s warranties on the ProCat/Predator-Pro and mid-size walk-behind models are all true industry-leading warranties with 6 years/2,750 hours and 3 years/2,500 hours, respectively.
— Ron Scheffler, product manager, BOB-CAT

The initial launch of the PRO Z 100 in 2016 was followed with the complete PRO Z Series earlier this year. The full lineup consists of the PRO Z 100, 500, 700 and 900 Series, designed to meet the needs of different-sized landscape crews. The PRO Z 500 was designed for small to medium landscape contractors. Stepping up to the PRO Z 700, more horsepower, faster mower speeds and larger deck options make this an essential step up for larger crews. The PRO Z 900 has it all — a 35-hp. engine, 16-cc transmission, 26-inch rear tires, and ground speeds up to 14 mph. The pivoting front axle can take a beating so your body doesn’t have to, and the air-ride ISO suspension seat has customizable seat firmness, lumbar support and angle adjustment.
— Allen Baird, professional product manager, Cub Cadet

The redesigned Hustler X-ONE features a larger fully tubular frame, Parker unitized transmission, simplified deck lift system, increased fuel capacity, and bolstered seat with internal suspension and rubber-isolated seat mounts. The new X-ONE is available with a Kawasaki FX or Kohler EFI engine. New to the X-ONE lineup is a 72-inch deck option.
With new attractive price points, the X-ONE offers an even greater value to large-property owners and commercial contractors.
Our ongoing objective is to look for ways to increase the performance and value of our mowers. With the redesigned X-ONE, we took into account added strength and durability to bring a higher-performing value to the market.
— Brad Unruh, director of product strategy, Excel Industries (Hustler)

Exmark’s 2017 commercial mower line is stronger than ever. From our Turf Tracer walk-behind to Vantage stand-on models and our Lazer Z zero-turn riders, Exmark is delivering more innovation and long-term value for landscape professionals.
The big news for 2017 is the introduction of the Radius zero-turn rider to the Exmark line. With its next-generation design, Radius raises the bar for the commercial durability, reliability and operator comfort a machine retailing for approximately $5,000 to $8,500 can deliver.
Radius is available in three models — E-Series, S-Series and X-Series. Each features a heavy-duty fabricated and welded steel frame, with an isolated floor pan to reduce noise and vibration reaching the operator. Exmark’s exclusive UltraCut cutting systems are available in side- or rear-discharge configurations on Radius models.
For landscape maintenance professionals looking for a productive,
zero-turn rider,
the Radius X-Series
represents an appealing
option. With a full-suspension operator seat; cutting widths of 48, 52 or 60 inches; forward speeds of up to 10 mph; and powerful Kawasaki V-twin commercial engines, Radius X-Series models are a solid investment for landscape professionals with an eye on the bottom line.
— Jamie Briggs, Exmark product manager

Grasshopper introduced Model 227VEFI for 2017. This new model features a 747-cc Kohler Confidant EFI engine, separate 12-cc pumps, high-torque wheel motors for smooth control, 12-gallon fuel tank located under the seat for lower center of gravity and terrain-hugging traction, and a multi-point integrated suspension system of iso-mounts and dampeners to reduce vibration and improve operator comfort. Fifty-two-inch and 61-inch cutting decks are available.
— Mike Simmon, marketing specialist, Grasshopper

In October 2016, Honda Power Equipment expanded its lineup of commercial lawn mowers with the introduction of the Honda HRC216K3HDA, an all-new model that joins the self-propelled, hydrostatic-drive Honda HRC216HXA and push-type HRC216PDA. Ideal for professional landscapers, the HRC216K3HDA features superior performance, durability and reliability, combined with reduced cost and weight. The newest Honda commercial lawn mower is designed from the inside out for simple starting, easy operation and quick stopping, featuring a host of advanced features and technologies, including easy start, easy stop; commercial-grade power; superior cutting performance; commercial-grade design; and lightweight maneuverability. The mower is backed by a Honda one-year commercial warranty (one year for the frame, two years for the engine).
Heading into 2017, the professional landscape market continues to gain momentum, and is benefiting from increased innovation and development of tools for this segment; what’s also important is the continued trend in products that increase speed and efficiency for commercial landscapers. With this in mind, the focus at Honda continues to be the infusion of technological innovation in the design of power products — lawn mowers, tillers, trimmers and pumps — that offer the least amount of downtime, greatest efficiency and durability, along with outstanding fuel economy.
— Elisha Lipscomb, Honda Power Equipment, senior marketing strategist, lawn & garden

Husqvarna’s commercial mowers are all designed to offer professionals the power, durability and ergonomics they need to get their jobs done right, day in and day out. One of our core mowers is the PZ 60 zero-turn, which offers a 7-gauge, 60-inch cutting deck and a fully mechanical suspension seat system with vibration control. It also features an open design for easy maintenance, which reduces downtime in the long run.
One of the new things we’re working to deploy in 2017 is Husqvarna Fleet Services, which is a Cloud-based service that allows landscaping teams to connect their fleets to an online portal so they can monitor equipment performance and manage maintenance issues. It’s all part of our commitment to being a go-to business partner by designing innovative technology solutions that will make professionals’ jobs easier and more productive. In addition, we’re the only brand that offers a complete lineup, from wheeled to handheld products, so we can offer a comprehensive fleet solution to meet professionals’ needs.
— Giovanni Crespi, director of regional product management of Husqvarna North America

John Deere remains dedicated to providing a variety of commercial mowing solutions for landscape professionals. We have a complete portfolio of products, including gear and hydrostatic walk-behind mowers, ride-on and stand-on zero-turn mowers, wide-area mowers and front mowers. We offer the industry-exclusive Michelin X Tweel Turf, available for John Deere ZTrak 900 Series models with 54-, 60- and 72-inch deck sizes. The X Tweel Turf is an airless radial tire that virtually eliminates tire downtime and is nearly maintenance free. Featuring automotive rubber technology, the X Tweel Turf lasts up to three times longer than standard turf tires. Other solutions include our Z930M, available with an EFI (electronic fuel injection) engine, and our flex-fuel-compliant Z925M. Along with our industry-exclusive Mulch On Demand deck option, these John Deere solutions enhance customer performance and efficiency.
— Ruben Pena, product marketing manager, zero-turn mower, John Deere

Kubota introduced two different series of mowers at GIE+EXPO 2016. Kubota’s Z400 (Kommander Pro) Series is targeted toward entry-level commercial customers and small-estate owners. It fits perfectly in between Kubota’s residential Z100 (Kommander) Series and our full commercial Z700 Series. Z400 is equipped with premium Kawasaki engines and comes in deck sizes of 48, 54 and 60 inches. Durability is our hallmark, so this unit features a ZT-3600 series transmission with steel-cut gears and larger charge pump. Getting the job done quickly is one of the most important purchase criteria, so this machine is designed to go up to 10 mph to enable customers to get the job done quickly and efficiently. It has a 2-year commercial warranty and 4-year/500-hour residential warranty. Customers can purchase these machines for a limited time for $5,999 to $6,999, depending on deck size needed.
Series is our
largest series
of mowers.
The ZD1500
features a wide
mower deck and
a Tier 4-compliant
30.8-horsepower Kubota
diesel engine with a Diesel
Particulate Filter (DPF) for standout
power. Kubota’s patented Aerodynamic Cutting System provides for smoother airflow and a more powerful blade rotation, resulting in less clumping of clippings, better fuel efficiency and faster cutting performance. The new ZD1500 mower is the most powerful of Kubota’s highly coveted ZD-Series, delivering high-volume cutting efficiency and professional performance for large turf acreages, from residential estate owners to schools and municipalities.
— Rajesh Joshi, Kubota product marketing director, turf

2017 is a landmark year for Steiner, as we’re proud to introduce the all-new Steiner 450 tractor. It is the new flagship machine for Steiner, and it’s more powerful and versatile than ever before. Specific to mowing, we have several mowing attachments that can tackle nearly any project, from the toughest to the most precise.
This tractor and its mowing capabilities will thrive in the golf, sports turf, large landscape and hobby farm industries. And the best part is that it isn’t just a mower. With more than 20 attachments, it’s really a machine that can do it all, from trenching to snow blowing to sweeping.
— Craig Rohde, marketing manager for Schiller Grounds Care (Steiner)

This year, we have launched the Sport version of the Stander Intensity, which gives you all the advantages of standing but also the ease of a seat when needed. We continue to broaden our product lines with larger, more powerful and commercial-capable engines. In the fall of 2016, we began installing the Briggs & Stratton 26-hp. 810-cc Vanguard engine on the Stander X and ZTO mid-mount Z. We also have added several 36- and 48-inch rear-discharge deck options.
— Ed Wright, director of research and development, Wright Manufacturing

L&I: What trends are you seeing in the market overall with regard to mower design, manufacture and sales?

We’re very mindful that landscape professionals’ biggest expenses are equipment, fuel and labor, so anything that we can do to improve their operating costs is a top priority for us. Whether it’s designing our equipment to last longer so they aren’t having to buy it as often, looking at ways we can make our machines more fuel efficient, or creating mowers that are in and of themselves more efficient, these are always top of mind for us, and we see them as big trends in the coming years.
— Matt Medden, Ariens Company VP of marketing

Landscape professionals have high expectations for their equipment, and demand a machine that lasts as long as they do. BOB-CAT designs its mower families to support three pillars: durability, ease of ownership, and quality of cut. Through supporting these pillars, we can provide the market with a commercial mower that meets the necessary needs and demands of the professional, while also providing comfort and the best-in-class serviceability that a mower can have.
— Ron Scheffler, product manager, BOB-CAT

We developed the PRO Z Series to not only meet expectations, but exceed them. We learned from the direct interaction with landscape professionals that a commercial zero-turn should be simple in design, but rugged and durable to stand up to the daily abuse of normal mowing conditions. A beefed-up front end, 5/16-inch-thick steel bumper, and a fully welded steel frame are standard across the entire line, ensuring these zero-turns will last for the long haul. Plus, these mowers are protected with e-coating, a precise multi-stage process that provides automotive-grade corrosion defense.
Post-purchase dealer support for professional landscapers continues to be an important trend. A superior warranty adds to confidence in the product purchase, and our dealers’ general maintenance support makes it simple to get parts quickly and minimizes downtime. Our service team and field team continuously listen to what our customers and independent dealers want in their service experience, and act accordingly.
— Allen Baird, professional product manager, Cub Cadet

We continue to see some focus on fuel-injected engines in the commercial segment. Also, the trend or push we see is value. Customers want a solid, well-built mower that is bulletproof — no issues and simplified maintenance. They want to mow, not work on equipment. Obviously, pricing continues to be a focus. Getting a full commercial machine for a good price. This is what we targeted with our new X-ONE.
— Brad Unruh, director of product strategy, Excel Industries (Hustler)

At Exmark, we’re working hard to reduce the required maintenance for our mowers while raising the bar for both reliability and long-term durability. We’re also making necessary maintenance easier to perform quickly. The reduction in maintenance-related downtime allows landscape professionals to focus more time and energy cutting grass, so they make more money.
Operator comfort is another aspect we’re working hard on improving across our line. We’re hearing from our customers that comfort and ergonomics are critical to the day-to-day sustainability and season-long productivity of mower operators. This is true regardless of mower type, but obviously the end result looks different depending on whether the mower is a walk-behind, stand-on or zero-turn rider.
With all that said, innovation for the sake of innovation isn’t necessarily progress, and that’s something we discuss frequently. Exmark is focused on developing features and innovations that not only raise the bar, but are also a reflection of our customers’ priorities.
— Jamie Briggs, Exmark product manager

Improving operator comfort continues to be a key focus, as well as low-maintenance, cost-efficient systems and designs. Grasshopper mowers have the fewest grease points — as few as two to as many as five — of any mower manufacturer, while our transmissions boast the longest fluid-change intervals on the market — up to 1,000 hours. That translates to as little as seven cents per hour of operation.
— Mike Simmon, marketing specialist, Grasshopper

As in past years, lawnmower reliability, and being easy and inexpensive to maintain, continue to be extremely important issues for landscape professionals. In addition, this segment is focused on how to get the most value from their lawnmower model—or fleet — investment while helping to effectively complete outdoor landscaping maintenance and projects. Because these trends tend to drive buying habits, Honda places durability, reliability and low cost of ownership at the top of the list for new design attributes for its lawnmower lineup.
— Elisha Lipscomb, Honda Power Equipment, senior marketing strategist, lawn & garden

Ergonomics are becoming more important as professionals expect comfort in addition to performance. We’ve addressed this with a new suspension seat, which features deep cushions and mechanically adjustable suspension with elastomeric vibration control (EVC) to reduce operator fatigue during long working hours. Productivity is also paramount to professionals, so we use the latest techniques and technologies to maximize the cutting deck performance of each of our mowers.
— Giovanni Crespi, director of regional product management of Husqvarna North America

From a market trend perspective, uptime, ride quality and efficiency remain top of mind for our customers. We are constantly
looking into innovative design features,
 new technology,
 and product and
 service solutions to 
help our customers
 increase their uptime.
One solution is the Michelin
X Tweel Turf, which virtually
 eliminates flats, which eliminates 
downtime from having to change tires. Another
 solution is the John Deere Neverstop Services and Support, a comprehensive set of solutions offered by John Deere dealers, including a full line of commercial-grade products, genuine John Deere and aftermarket parts, service and support, money-saving rewards, and special finance options. This includes our Parts OnSite, same-day and next-day parts, mower loaner program, leasing and flexible financing, and GreenFleet Loyalty Rewards.
— Ruben Pena, product marketing manager, zero-turn mower, John Deere

The overall market is healthy and growing. The housing market is strong, and landscape professionals are always getting more sophisticated in terms of running their operations efficiently and looking forward to technology advancements such as fleet monitoring and telematics to reduce downtime and monitor efficiency to improve their overall profitability. Because gas prices are low right now, efficiency and quality of cut are the two main purchase drivers for landscape customers. In addition, commercial customers are looking for durability and performance. Kubota is known for its legendary quality, durability and performance. We started with diesel mowers, and now we offer a complete range of gasoline engine mowers with the same features that customers have always expected and appreciated from Kubota.
— Rajesh Joshi, Kubota product marketing director, turf

What we’ve seen and what we want to accomplish with our tractors and attachments are value and versatility. We find that people are willing to spend their money on something a little more durable, powerful and higher quality, and put their trust in it. Not only that, but rather than have several machines that do specialized tasks, a Steiner tractor does it all. For a business owner, there’s a lot of value in that, and it’s something they can build on as their business grows.
— Craig Rohde, marketing manager for Schiller Grounds Care (Steiner)

We’ve witnessed increased commercial expectations. With the demand for high reliability and low cost of operation, we see mowers evolving into higher-performance machines that are more compact with added power, less weight and better maneuverability. This matches the needs of more complex landscaping with more intricate hardscapes and water management berms.
— Ed Wright, director of research and development, Wright Manufacturing

L&I: What types of feedback do you receive from landscape professionals? And how are the insights and comments from professionals factored into your commercial mower design and manufacturing?

At Gravely, employees working in all aspects of our company are constantly listening to landscape professionals. We have a team of business development managers who are tasked with finding good landscape contractors who are willing to provide us with honest feedback about our equipment. This team works with landscape professionals day after day and reports back to our corporate headquarters with the information we need to improve. That endeavor alone has been huge in helping all of our departments understand the audience we’re creating this equipment for; and since listening intently to them, we’ve made some big improvements and changes.
In addition to that, we also know that our dealer base has some great insight into the needs of landscape professionals, what our equipment is doing to help them, and what our competition is doing. So, we use all of that information to determine how our efforts can make their lives easier and their businesses more profitable.
— Matt Medden, Ariens Company VP of marketing

BOB-CAT works alongside professional landscapers of various fleet sizes to understand not only their requirements of the job, but also any potential desires. Understanding how and why they work their terrains is just as important as what they do. Professional landscapers’ insights are the key in providing direction in how we design and build our mowers.
— Ron Scheffler, product manager, BOB-CAT

We went beyond our standard robust product development process and engaged 100 landscapers to put the new PRO Z mowers to test. For 16 weeks during the heat of the season, they pushed these mowers to their limits. The landscapers provided weekly feedback during this time that informed our final design. No stone was left unturned — everything from cup holders to engine selection was reviewed, analyzed, and tested before making into the final PRO Z lineup. After thousands of hours on the job, these landscapers proved the PRO Z Series could handle the daily demands of serious professionals.
— Allen Baird, professional product manager, Cub Cadet

We get feedback from commercial cutters and also from our dealers through the commercial cutters. We take this into consideration when developing or refreshing existing commercial units.
— Brad Unruh, director of product strategy, Excel Industries (Hustler)

Exmark works closely with customers to better understand their needs and priorities. We take the importance our machines play in their success very seriously, so we make it easy for customers to give us their feedback. We travel thousands of miles each year to conduct in-person meetings with customers, and we’re constantly talking with customers about their Exmark ownership experience.
We’re consistently hearing from customers that they’re not making much, if any, more money on the properties they maintain, compared to five to 10 years ago. As a result, they need new mowers to be both more productive and more efficient than the machines they’re replacing.
Fuel is a major expense for landscape professionals. As a result, Exmark offers an industry-leading number of EFI-gasoline and EFI-propane engine options on our Lazer Z, Vantage and Turf Tracer models. In addition, our exclusive EFI+RED Technology, offered on the Lazer Z X-Series model, can reduce fuel consumption by up to 40 percent compared to an equivalent carbureted engine.
The shortage of qualified labor is a consistent challenge we’re also hearing about from customers. This underscores the need for increased productivity per worker, and since our customers are consistently hiring, training, and integrating new workers, controls must be intuitive and easy to operate.
A good example of an Exmark technology that’s resulted from this need is our exclusive Enhanced Control System (ECS) controls. Featured on Exmark walk-behind and stand-on models, ECS controls are easy to learn and intuitive to use. Plus, the improved comfort and ergonomics of the ECS controls reduce employee fatigue, so they’re more productive when they get off the mower and move on to other tasks.
— Jamie Briggs, Exmark product manager

Grasshopper receives continuous feedback from customers and dealers on what they want in their mowing equipment, ranging from how to enhance comfort and productivity to new product suggestions. We take all of that feedback seriously. We look at every customer response we receive — and not just the positive. Our production line is configured to incorporate design enhancements throughout the year, not just at the beginning of a product year, which allows for continuous, instead of staggered, improvement.
— Mike Simmon, marketing specialist, Grasshopper

What we know and hear on a fairly consistent basis from customer feedback is that landscape professionals choose and buy different commercial lawnmower models based on features and benefits, fuel economy, durability, reliability, and equipment downtime. Honda also knows that landscape professionals are prone to choosing and buying lawn mowers that offer easy-to-perform minor maintenance and straightforward scheduled services so as to avoid unexpected maintenance expenses. At Honda, we understand that all these attributes translate into long-term value for professional landscapers. Taking all of this into account, Honda works to develop and produce technologically innovative commercial mowers that consumers not only want to buy but come to depend on and make them more successful.
— Elisha Lipscomb, Honda Power Equipment, senior marketing strategist, lawn & garden

One of our mottos is that our products are designed for landscapers, by landscapers, which means their feedback is incorporated into nearly every step of the design and manufacturing process. This results in user-centric designs that are reflected in every professional product we offer. During the commercial summits that are held at our global R&D engineering headquarters, we’ve heard landscapers emphasize they want products that remain durable over long hours of use. We incorporate these types of comments directly into our design process.
— Giovanni Crespi, director of regional product management of Husqvarna North America

We integrate the feedback we receive from our customers and landscape contractors directly into current and future product development programs. We strive to bring innovative solutions to the market, and the best way to do that is by listening to customers and truly understanding how to meet their needs.
— Ruben Pena, product marketing manager, zero-turn mower, John Deere

Landscape professionals are looking for durability and performance. Ease of use is very important for landscape companies with larger fleets, as their operator pool is transient. As more and more landscape professionals are adding Kubota equipment to their fleets, the feedback we get is that their crew prefers Kubota equipment over competitive equipment. Kubota’s product development and validation process allows us to thoroughly test equipment in all terrains and grass types. All of our product improvements are informed by our dealers and customers who are part of the process. Kubota’s latest innovation in outdoor power equipment — Aerodynamic Cutting System technology — was a result of insights gained from landscape professionals. This new technology allows for 16 percent less demand on the engine torque and 27 percent better ground speed for enhanced productivity.
— Rajesh Joshi, Kubota product marketing director, turf

A Steiner is a unique tractor that withstands the test of time. Our professional customers rely on it heavily, and many of them build their businesses around it. Because of that, durability is key. They need it to thrive in all conditions and all seasons.
— Craig Rohde, marketing manager for Schiller Grounds Care (Steiner)

The feedback we receive the most is typically related to reliability, performance and specific applications. Every landscape professional is faced with unique needs, and wants a mower specific to their own tasks. We offer a wide variety of options and continue to expand these options. We also see the desire for low maintenance. Many of our mowers now only require engine oil, filter and blade maintenance during the mowing season.
— Ed Wright, director of research and development, Wright Manufacturing

L&I: What advice would you provide to landscape/lawn care professionals who are looking to add to their mower fleet for the 2017 season?

A good thing to remember is that it’s not just about the equipment. It’s important to make sure that landscape professionals have a good relationship with their dealer, and that they find someone who can support their needs, whether it’s fixing their equipment in a timely manner, having parts on hand when they need them, or having a loaner program. Those are factors that can help immensely when something goes wrong.
As far as buying advice, we always encourage landscape professionals to spend time in the seats of multiple zero-turns, and do demos whenever possible. Put the equipment to the test yourself. Don’t just allow a dealer to sell you into a brand blindly. Instead, do your own research and make sure that you really evaluate the products. Most brands have demo programs to ensure that customers are able to do this, so take advantage of that.
— Matt Medden, Ariens Company VP of marketing

There are 
so many dif
ferent ways to
 find commercial
 mower specifications, 
competitive analysis,
 and professional landscaper
 product experiences through the 
Internet, social media, etc. However,
 the best way to compare commercial mowers is
sitting in the seat itself. We understand the landscapers’ needs, and build our products as they would. We use the word “confidence” in our warranty program, but we also build and design our mowers with confidence. We are confident in our products, and we want you to be as well.
— Ron Scheffler, product manager, BOB-CAT

The new PRO Z Series has some of the strongest specifications in the industry today — like triple 7-gauge-steel cutting decks and high-horsepower Kawasaki engines paired with high-torque Parker transmissions. In spring 2017, we are offering aggressive financing, fleet and bid discounts, military rebates, and up to $400 off select models.
— Allen Baird, professional product manager, Cub Cadet

A good dealer will help you pick the correct mower. They will also be there for you as service needs arise.
— Brad Unruh, director of product strategy, Excel Industries (Hustler)

Buy quality up front. Downtime is revenue lost, so an investment in more durable mowers with reduced maintenance requirements can make a significant impact on the bottom line.
Increasing fuel efficiency is a great way to improve profitability. Gas prices are forecast to increase, so investing in more fuel-efficient mowers is a prudent long-term strategy.
While it’s true an EFI-equipped mower will be slightly more expensive up front, in the long run you’ll save money with every hour of operation. You will also have a machine that starts easier and performs better, with greater reliability compared to carburetor-equipped mowers.
Cut quality, productivity, operator comfort and durability are variables that each have a different level of importance to customers. So, it makes sense to put some thought into what areas of a mower’s performance are most important to you.
— Jamie Briggs, Exmark product manager

Look for equipment that is going to deliver the best long-term value, not just the best price or the best gimmick. Look at your equipment purchase as a partnership — not just with the manufacturer, but also with the servicing dealer. Factory and dealer support after the sale is just as important as the final sale price. Equipment should also be tailored to fit the company’s needs and future growth potential. Grasshopper is uniquely positioned in that we offer not only mowers, but year-round productivity solutions that enable contractors to expand their service offerings without investing in multiple pieces of expensive, stand-alone equipment.
— Mike Simmon, marketing specialist, Grasshopper

Every season, it is important for landscape professionals to evaluate the lawnmower models in their fleets to determine the production or yield of every unit in inventory — in other words, what products are working the hardest and helping professionals perform their best. By doing so, it may be possible to trim fleet size or change the model mix of the fleet to maximize profitability.
— Elisha Lipscomb, Honda Power Equipment, senior marketing strategist, lawn & garden

Visit your local dealers and talk to them about the capabilities of the latest mowers. Demos are the key to finding the products that will best fit your unique needs, and dealers can give you the opportunity to test a product so you can make a confident purchasing decision.
— Giovanni Crespi, director
of regional product management of Husqvarna North America

At the end of the day, you need to choose
the right deck size for the properties you service
and the right horsepower in order to optimize
performance and efficiency. Be sure to investigate various attachments that may also improve the capability of your machine and scope of your business.
— Ruben Pena, product marketing manager, zero-turn mower, John Deere

Landscape professionals are always concerned with the initial cost and trade value of the equipment as they upgrade a portion of their fleet every year. Kubota’s brand image as durable equipment that is value priced allows commercial operators to not only purchase Kubota equipment at a value price and low monthly payments with zero-percent financing, but also depreciates the least, thus making for the best return on investment to landscape professionals. Kubota’s fleet program allows any size landscape company to get a demonstration unit at no cost, and then they can purchase equipment at a discount using zero-percent financing.
— Rajesh Joshi, Kubota product marketing director, turf

We recommend that they think beyond mowing in 2017. To grow business, it’s easier and more efficient to upsell a current customer versus bringing on a new customer. Adding other capabilities — like being able to aerate, lawn cleanup or haul soil — will not only make you more profitable, but also will differentiate you from your competition.
— Craig Rohde, marketing manager for Schiller Grounds Care (Steiner)

Create a good relationship with a great dealer, and remember the cost of downtime. If you understand the costs related to downtime, you would realize that it’s very expensive, and thus crucial to buy the best mower up front. Focus on buying something highly reliable from the start.
— Ed Wright, director of research and development, Wright Manufacturing

— Compiled by John Kmitta, editor of L&I and associate publisher of OPE.