Machine Heads Video: Exploring Manitou’s New V-Series Skid Steers and VT-Series Track Loaders

Manitou is a very interesting story in the white hot compact equipment market of today. In this latest episode of Machine Heads, we take a look at Manitou’s dual-brand strategy and its renewed investment in the U.S. market through its new V-Series skid steers and VT-Series compact track loaders — the company’s first white sheet redesign in more than a decade.

If there has been one constant in the U.S. construction industry over the last 10 years, it’s that demand for compact equipment is hot and continues to grow. Most estimates place total compact equipment units sold at around 260,000 as of 2022, with analysts expecting the market for compact machines to continue to grow by a compound annual growth rate in the ballpark of 5 to 7 percent over the next several years.

Manitou is a particularly interesting story in the grand scheme of the compact equipment market. Since its inception in 1957, the French company has grown into one of the top 10 equipment makers in Europe. In the early ’70s it started selling its telehandlers and aerial platforms internationally. Today one in four telehandlers sold globally is a Manitou. By the early 2000s, the company knew that it needed a firmer foothold in the U.S. compact equipment market which was primed for growth. We’re going to talk about how it’s still working to attain that foothold along with its renewed investment in the entire North American market which includes manufacturing expansion, a revamped branding strategy, and, of course, new equipment. Let’s dig in.

When Two Brands Are Better Than One

When Manitou Group bought the Gehl company in 2008 to expand its U.S. footprint, you could say the company was either crazy or prescient. The housing market had boomed so hard it busted, sending the global economy into a free fall and the U.S. economy — and subsequently the U.S. construction industry—into a world of hurt for the next several years. Despite those hardships, things did heat up again. And when they did, the compact equipment segment was set on fire, fueled by the growth of rental, labor shortages, and contractors desire to tighten up their equipment fleets and prioritize more versatile equipment.

So, with the purchase of Gehl, Manitou added a brand to its portfolio with deep roots in American hearts and minds. Gehl has been manufacturing farm equipment since the 1850s and skid steers since the 1970s. But Manitou’s purchase also included the Mustang brand which Gehl acquired in 1997. Since then, the Mustang brand has been phased out in favor of Manitou-branded equipment. Today, Manitou employs a two-brand strategy, understanding that Gehl customers are different from Manitou customers — Gehl machines have a deep history in agricultural applications — and marketing its products under the two banners in ways that reflect those differences in geography and priorities.

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But another key aspect to understanding this two-brand strategy is the deep well of trust among American customers for the Gehl brand that Manitou values a great deal. It’s not uncommon to see a Gehl machine that is 15 to 20 years old still at work on a farm or jobsite. And though the North American construction equipment market is very mature at this point, Manitou believes there’s still room for a lot of growth and that’s reflected in those analyst forecasts for growth through the end of this decade.

There’s also a natural fit between the Gehl and Manitou brands. Beyond the fact that both brands have deep agricultural roots, Manitou sees the Manitou-branded lineup of machines as complementary to the Gehl lineup because there are machines and machine types in the Manitou lineup that aren’t present in the Gehl lineup.

Through the North American dealer network — composed of both Gehl dealers and Manitou dealers—Manitou sees an opportunity to expand the options Gehl customers have access to through the Manitou brand of equipment. Dealers of both networks are equipped to serve customers of both brands, giving Manitou a major geographic advantage. Last year, Manitou celebrated 50 years of building skid steers in the U.S. through the Gehl brand with the expansion of its Madison, South Dakota, facility where Gehl and Manitou skid-steer and compact track loaders are made.

This expansion is key in supporting the company’s two-brand strategy here in North America, including the introduction of a revamped lineup of skid steers and compact track loaders that span both brands.

Manitou V-Series Skid Steers and VT-Series CTLs

Manitou Compact Track Loaders

The new V-Series Skid Steers and VT-Series CTLs represent the first white sheet redesign for skid steers and CTLs for both the Manitou and Gehl brands in North America since about 2009. After speaking with dealers and customers, Manitou circled five primary areas to focus on with these new loaders: serviceability, safety, simplifying operation, increased productivity, and increased comfort. Each of these new skid steers and CTLs are built atop mid-size frames with operating capacities spanning from 2,100 pounds up to 2,750 pounds. All of the new models are also vertical lift machines — hence the “V” and “VT” in their model names.

The new vertical lift lineups give both the Gehl and Manitou brands separate lineups of Radial and Vertical lift machines within both of their respective skid-steer and compact track loader lineups. However, as a starting point, Manitou based the rethinking of its new vertical lift skid steers and CTLs off of the 1650 RT, a radial lift path CTL that sits somewhere between the small and medium frame sizes. The reason the 1650 RT was singled out is that Manitou has received rave reviews of from customers and dealers alike many praising how well the machine drives and maneuvers.

Manitou compact track loader with a bucket working the dirt

So, the platform of the new V- and VT-Series machines mimics the nimbleness of that 1650 RT. Manitou has made changes to the weight distribution of the new machines in order to reduce the overall weight while still enabling lift capacities up to the aforementioned 2,750 pounds at 35% of tipping.

A major result of these weight savings in the new machines is that they are faster on the ground and therefore more productive with faster cycle times.

In fact, that 1650 RT is so popular that also served as the foundation for one other new Manitou machine, the new Manitou 1950 RT. While the V- and VT-Series machines are considered Manitou and Gehl’s flagship medium-frame loaders, the new 1950 RT is a simplified, nimble, and capable radial lift compact track loader without all the new features, bells, and whistles of the V- and VT-Series.

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New Lift Arm Design and Improved Performance

Manitou lift arm

The V- and VT-Series machines also feature an all-new lift arm design. The unique shape of this lift arm design slopes down and away from the operator. This sloped surface ensures that material like hay, silage, dirt, or stone cannot build up on the lift arm. The sloped lift arm also adds an extra inch or inch and a quarter of visibility to the ground. Manitou says that when you project that extra inch down toward the ground, the result is an extra 2 to 3 feet of visibility next to your machine along the sides.

Manitou has also implemented grease-able pins along the side of the lift arm allowing you to walk along the sides of the machine and quickly grease the whole machine. The change should cut greasing times in half. The new lift arm design also features LED lights mounted underneath each arm, providing greater visibility for operators loading trucks at night. Two more improvements on the productivity side are a fuel tank that is 14 percent larger and breakout forces across the lineup that are 12 percent higher on average.

To reach these performance improvements, Manitou increased the hydraulic pressure and flow on these machines.They also increased the bore of the lift cylinder and repositioned both the lift and the tilt cylinders.


Manitou Serviceability

Another major improvement Manitou has made to these new machines is to their serviceability. First, Manitou has implemented lift-up cab designs on these machines, allowing the entire cab assembly to tilt up 62 degrees. One big advantage that Manitou has implemented though is that these cabs tilt with the lift arms in either the up or down position. Plus, the cooler assembly also rotates up 28 degrees to give you unfettered access the top and sides of the engine. The cooler also has a removable panel if you need to wash out the cooler. And if there’s something you need to access that’s not on the front, sides, or back of the machine, Manitou has also placed there individual access panels underneath the machine that can be easily removed and reinstalled by one person.

Cab Improvements

Manitou skid steer cab

Moving inside the cab of these machines, the cab itself is 23% larger than previous cab designs. This includes a new footwell that not only boasts more foot room, but also a drain plug that allows you to wash out the foot well with a hose to remove any debris. That drain tube takes all the mud or other debris and drains it outside of the machine. But the big improvement is to the cab size itself which also brings a 20% increase to operator visibility. The way Manitou achieved these improvements is pretty interesting.

In the past, Gehl and Manitou machines have been the only manufacturers to offer a standard cab with FOPS Level 2 protection. That means that the standard cab on these machines would protect an operator from a 500-lb steel cylinder falling atop the cab compared to the Level One protection of a 100-pound cylinder. The standard cab on other machines is FOPS Level One. After speaking with customers though, Manitou came to the conclusion that FOPS Level Two might be overkill as a standard option as the customers that are actually in need of FOPS Level Two — those doing mulching, ship trimming, demolition, etc.—usually need more than just roof protection anyway.

Manitou 2700V skid steer

So, with the V- and VT-Series machines, Manitou has reduced the standard cab protection to FOPS Level One, allowing them to use material that is a bit thinner. The thinner material enabled Manitou to make a major design modification to the rooftop.

If you look at this area between the work lights on the new machines, you’ll notice that the middle section of the roof slopes beyond and lower than the work lights themselves. This forward sloping roof — which Manitou has applied for a patent on — reduces the blind spot that runs across the top of your cab when you’re dumping into trucks. On a normal machine that blind spot would be about 2 or 3 in. On the new Manitou machines, the blind spot is reduced to about an inch and a quarter.

Another big update brought by these new machines is that Manitou’s fold-up door will be available for the first time on skid steers. A customer favorite, the fold-up door combines the entrance/exit and visibility benefits of the slide up door without the drawback of having to raise a door over your head.

Manitou Ideal Access door

A crease in the middle of the two-piece polycarbonate door allows the door to fold in half and stow above you but not directly overhead. The V- and VT-Series machines also benefit from a new design of this folding door that has a narrowed steel frame for more visibility, an improved crease location making it high enough to ensure that whatever the operator may be focusing on at the time — their bucket or attachment— is below the crease in their sightline.

Moving further into the cab, Manitou has also implemented a new simplified operator interface on these machines’ 7-inch color display, including keyless start, and options within the display for easy machine customization.

Manitou has also implemented improved pilot controls on these loaders. These controls move with the seat, just like electro-hydraulic controls, while retaining the preferred responsiveness of pilot controls.

And on the safety side of things, Manitou has lowered the cab opening by 3 in. to make it less of a trip point. In addition, they’ve added egress lighting, additional tie downs, and a machine lockout switch that allows you to keep the work group locked while unlocking your parking breaks — this means you can drive the machine without worrying about inadvertent movement of the lift arm of the bucket.

Looking to learn more, then visit Manitou at its website for more info.

Wayne Greyson is the Machine Heads editor for Compact Equipment.

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