Machinery & Products

More to Chinese tractors than you think

By John Droppert

Chinese tractors.

Wait! Don’t turn the page just yet. I know what you’re thinking — and it probably wouldn’t be wise to print it here.

It’s fair to say Chinese tractors, in general, have the reputation that Korean ones had not too long ago, and Japanese ones well before that.

One that makes for much hilarity when you see a low-hour machine for sale, or a suspected sucker shaking hands on a deal at Farm World.

If the media coverage and odd court decision are true, at least some segments of this broadly generalised category are worthy of lashings of ridicule and disdain.

I’d have thought most of them can easily be picked out at the field days — the ones where the spray paint has not quite all gone where it should, and the panels just seem to be that bit too far out of alignment. The plastic looks and smells like it’ll melt if the sun stays out too long.

It seems that not everyone got the memo though, or money really does talk; as you still see them getting purchased, out in paddocks, and then advertised for sale or sympathy.

I’ve never driven a good Chinese tractor, but then again I’ve never driven a bad one either.

I’d really like to flog the guts out of one just to see what it can do. Here’s why: As you may be aware, this column has a soft spot for tough, basic spec machines that get the job done without making you a coffee and giving you a massage.

The ones where the levers are still connected to things; tractors that you can walk up to, have a look under the bonnet, and actually see what’s going on.

At face value, Chinese tractors fit that bill perfectly. And I strongly suspect that there are at least some good ones out there on the market.

Whether they’re based on reliable older platforms, backed by more established dealers rather than simply ‘importers’, or straight out manufactured to a higher standard, with decent castings and fittings, more precise parts, and the like. They must exist.

Why do I believe this? Because I’ve been fortunate enough to see just enough of China (not much) to know that locally produced machines are everywhere there — just as there are a great many Chinese cars on the roads.

You can’t tell me that the Chinese economy has gotten to where it has on the basis of tractors that break down after 100 hours of slashing.

I have also seen Chinese milk processing plants with more people as tour guides than working on the factory floor, and robotics that would make the eyes of any Australian plant manager water. You can’t tell me that they don’t have a clue how to build tractors.

I’m sure that there are plenty of dodgy characters cutting corners, but it seems disingenuous to suggest that the Chinese can’t build decent tractors.

So are we tending to import too many of the ones that fit the cheap price buyers expect to pay?

Or are there plenty of good ones that we don’t hear about because a couple of bad apples are trashing the basic end of the market?

My budget doesn’t extend to finding out through trial and error, so I’m just asking questions …

• John Droppert has no mechanical qualifications whatsoever, but has been passionate about tractors since before he could talk and has operated many different makes and models in a variety of roles for both profit and fun.