Editor at Large: We visit Manitou/Gehl/Mustang’s Next Big Thing dealer event (a photo blog)

Your Compact Equipment team took a trip to West Bend, Wis., on St. Patrick’s Day to check out some new machines in the Manitou Group lineup, which includes Gehl and Mustang, unveiled during its Next Big Thing dealer event, as well as hear about the new service and support offerings.

Let’s start there. With 1,400 dealerships worldwide selling 400 models across five brands, the Manitou Group certainly has product offering and innovation well figured out. The segment of the company where they think the next competitive advantage lies is in the Services & Solutions division (S&S). This division handles the functions you’d expect — spare parts, warranties, financing, fleet management, etc. — but the goal now is to bundle all of these into a more holistic solution, focusing on the total cost of ownership of a machine versus just the initial purchase price.

One innovation in this area is the creation of maintenance contracts. The idea here is, as part of your purchase/financing of a piece of equipment, you would also pre-pay for all regularly scheduled service (filter replacements, oil changes, service time) and even unplanned maintenance. These contracts would be backed by the parent company and hopefully lower the lifetime ownership costs of a machine and eliminate incremental expenses.

“We see the customer changing, and we want to be the total cost of ownership leader,” said Dan Miller, CEO of Manitou Americas and president of the CE division.

The maintenance contracts are still under development but will be available soon.

New machines

Manitou had several new machines at the show (photos at the end). We got the most in-depth with the new Mustang 608/708 articulated loader.

mustang 608 articulated loader

Some quick specs: Manitou says these machines offer some of the highest breakout forces in the their respective classes. Full turn tip capacities are 4,917 lbs (608 4-Post), 5,244 lbs (608 cab), 5,778 lbs (708 4-Post) and 6,126 lbs (708 cab), and the lift height is 130.5 in. for the 608 and 136.8 in. for the 708. The Power-A-Tach hydraulic attachment system is now standard and features a skid steer interface so that you can cross purpose attachments (and is 50 percent more powerful for easier, quicker changeouts).

Proportional auxiliary hydraulics are standard and are put to work using a rocker switch on the joystick, and there are four auxiliary hydraulic options. The mechanical self-leveler and mechanical return to dig features make consistent operation easy. Same for the lift float and tilt float — which is not as common of a feature.

mustang 608 engine

mustang 608 loader engine

608 tire tread

A new tire tread that can be switched out if it doesn’t meet the job application.

OK, now on to the coolest thing we saw at the event. The feature that had the dealers buzzing was the new collapsible door on the Mustang track loader that opens into the cab, but doesn’t go over the driver’s head (so no additional cab height is required). This thing was incredibly easy to open and close. Behold:

manitou track loader door

manitou track loader door 2

manitou track loader door 3

manitou track loader door 4

This next evolution in track loaders includes the patented IdealTrax automatic track tensioning system, eliminating the need for manual track tensioning and increasing the life of the tracks, sprockets and bearings, due to the relief of track tension when the engine is shut off. This system saves the suggested 10 to 15 minute track tension checks that are recommended every 50 hours and the 30 to 45 minute tension readjustments required approximately every 300 to 400 hours depending on usage. By eliminating over-tensioning and releasing track tension when the engine is turned off, track life is extended by up to 15 percent.

And there was still way more to see. Check out the rest of the photos below. Overall the company introduced 19 new models in 2015.

manitou original skid steer

gehl skid steer loaders

Edge attach manitou

manitou telehandlers

manitou gehl excavator

Manitou excavator

This Gehl Z55 excavator fills a gap the company had in its lineup.