It's easy to get excited about the farm equipment business when you listen to Jim Irwin, vice president, North American Agricultural Business, for Case IH.

“2003 was a break-out year for our brands,” Irwin told a group of editors attending a media event for the introduction of Case IH's new Farmall line of tractors. “Our business really mushroomed.”

Irwin said Case IH introduced a number of new products last April. Then, from April until December, the company saw some of the largest sales increases it had seen in many years.

“In every category where we introduced new products last year, we had significant market share gains, and that's what makes us so proud,” he said. “We are very proud of the fact that when the products started rolling, the customers really accepted them, and they have continued to do that.

Case IH is “sitting on the most significant order boards we've had since I've been in this business,” Irwin noted. “We have customers who will wait a significant amount of time to get a product because they believe our story; they believe where this brand is going; and they believe in the hard-working people we have that support this brand.”

The new models have meant a major turnaround for the company.

“You think back five or six years ago, we basically were out of the small tractor business. We had the plant in Doncaster, England that was building tractors. The product was an average product; it was not a super product; it was a very high cost product because the production numbers were very slow. We were just barely competitive in the marketplace, to be honest with you.”

Prior to the merger of Case IH and New Holland in 1999, Case had five families of tractors with a total of 23 models spread among them.

“With the introduction of the Farmall line — and we'll have more models coming in the spring — we'll have nine families of products with 42 different models,” said Irwin. “We're going from five families to nine families and from 23 models to 42 models. You can imagine what's happening within this brand. And it's just been phenomenal what we're seeing taking place in the marketplace.”

The expansion has made Case IH's dealers “a pretty happy bunch now,” said Irwin. “You probably couldn't have said three or four years ago because they wanted more models from us to help them grow their business. The beauty of putting Case IH and New Holland together is that we have the scale now to do the things that actually no one else in this business can do. And we're taking it to the marketplace.”