Projects to increase AGCO Corp.’s tractor making capacity at existing facilities in North America and Europe are reportedly on track to start assembling products this year. And with the development of more powerful Sisu engineers, greater independence from outside power unit suppliers is clearly the goal of the company’s latest engine developments.

Construction work worth around $6 million was completed at AGCO’s Challenger facility in Jackson, Minn., in November and final preparations are now being made to re-introduce series production of Massey Ferguson row-crop tractors to North America.

MF 8600 Dyna-VT tractors from 270-370 horsepower, and their Challenger MT600C counterparts, will share an extended and re-organized assembly line with Challenger tracked machines. Extended by some 16,000 square feet, the revamped facility also has a 42,000 square foot extension that provides an advanced kitting center for delivering parts and material to the assembly line.

When the investment was announced just over a year ago, Doug Griffin, AGCO vice president of marketing, said the project was in response to customers and dealers asking for a product built closer to them. At present, the tractors are sourced from AGCO’s Beauvais plant in France.

“Also, we’ve seen demand picking up for this size of tractor and AGCO’s share of sales in this segment has increased, so it makes sense to start producing these machines in North America,” he said.

An associated project will create an all-new visitor center at the Jackson plant. The “Intivity Center” will showcase the innovation and productivity characteristics of the plant’s products, which also include the Challenger application vehicles.

A bigger project, worth more than $220 million, is making progress at the Fendt operation in southern Germany and is scheduled to be completed around September.

The Marktoberdorf plant produces tractors from 70-370 horsepower and the Vario stepless transmissions used in a number of AGCO vehicles. Capacity will be increased to 20,000 units a year — a 30% increase on the current limit of just over 15,000 units, which the plant hit in 2008. It will also provide more modern and efficient assembly and final testing facilities.

Fendt Ahead 2 is an expanded version of a plan started in 2009 but put on hold later in the year as the unexpected downturn hit agricultural markets.

It includes a new assembly hall for building cabs at a separate location and a new design and engineering center at Marktoberdorf alongside new tractor assembly halls and other facilities.

Engine Independence

More use of its own engines and less dependence on outside suppliers is clearly the aim of AGCO’s most recent development work.

The corporation’s tractor and harvester brands have progressively increased their use of Sisu engines after the operations in Finland and Brazil were acquired with Valtra in 2004. AGCO has since invested in what is now called AGCO Sisu Power to improve capabilities, increase production capacity and extend the product line.

Now, as Sisu’s unique 9.8-liter, seven-cylinder diesel makes its on-farm debut in the latest-generation Massey Ferguson combines, R&D engineers are working on an eighth engine line — this time a V12 of 16.8-liters capacity.

The official word is that no decision has been taken as to the AGCO products this engine will power. But with outputs rated at up to 700 horsepower, it’s clear the advanced V12 is destined for the biggest and most powerful products in AGCO’s portfolio.

Four years after acquiring Sisu, AGCO announced a bold three year investment program that would lift volume potential from just over 42,000 to 50,000 units by 2012.

Deutz remains the principle supplier to Fendt and Perkins continues to supply three- and four-cylinder engines for MF and Challenger wheeled tractor lines, but the in-house engines are finding their way into a growing number of products. They have already displaced Cummins engine used in some tractors and Caterpillar engines used in AGCO combines; they also now power Challenger application vehicles.

The novel in-line, seven-cylinder engine, which raises Sisu’s power ceiling from 420 to 500 horsepower, is now seeing service in Europe in the new MF 9280 (470-500 horsepower) hybrid rotary combine and its Fendt counterpart. Similarly in North America, it’s showing up in the new Hesston, Kan.-built MF 9540 (370-426 horsepower) and MF 9560 (460-477 horsepower) rotary combines, which replace MF 9005 Series machine powered by 8.4-liter Sisu and Cat C13 (425-459 horsepower) engines.

All use AGCO Sisu Power’s third-generation SCR system to tackle exhaust emissions to Tier 4 Interim standard; the new V12 will use similar technology, but to Tier 4 Final level when it enters production.

With Challenger tracked tractors spanning 290-609 horsepower using Caterpillar six-cylinder engines, it easy to speculate where the new V12 might end up. AGCO will be anxious to get as much mileage out of its engine unit investment and the considerable sums spent on emissions technology.