Q&A: Discussing the 2024 Compact Track Loader Market with Takeuchi’s Lee Padgett

TakeuchiTL10V2 track loader

The January/February print issue of Compact Equipment is on desks and in equipment cabs everywhere. It’s also online. In that issue, we deep dive into the skid steer and compact track loader industry with a 6,000-word mega feature. To build that story, we interviewed more than 10 manufacturers. Some of those interviews make equally compelling copy. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be publishing those interviews, asking top brands from Cat to Kubota to detail their skid steer and track loader lines but also share their opinions on trends changing the industry, sales numbers, attachment insights and buying and maintenance advice. Here comes one of those interviews right now. Lee Padgett, product manager, Takeuchi-US, was kind enough to share his time and insights on the small loader market.

Compact Equipment: Lee, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to Compact Equipment. We’re big fans of the Takeuchi brand. Maybe we can start off our discussion by giving a brief history of Takeuchi in the track loader markets. How did you start, but also how many units do you offer today?

Takeuchi pallet forks

Padgett: Takeuchi built its first compact track loader in the mid-1980s. Today, the company offers five compact track loader models. Takeuchi track loaders are purpose built and feature a unique undercarriage design with model-specific components that are matched to each specific platform for greater durability. Takeuchi track loaders feature spacious operator stations with a deluxe, high-back suspension seat with multiple height adjustments, placing the operator in the optimum position. New models include a standard 5.7-in. color monitor and rearview camera for a broader view of the worksite. Pilot-operated joystick controls control all loader and travel functions. Their precision and responsiveness, due to the low-effort controls, reduce operator fatigue.

The radial-lift TL8R2 is Takeuchi’s newest, packed full of new features such as creep mode, automatic shift, two-speed travel, a fully redesigned cabin with 5.7-in. color monitor and backup camera. A quiet-ride undercarriage reduces noise and vibration, greatly improving ride quality and operator comfort. Rounding out the Takeuchi lineup are the radial-lift TL6R and TL12R2 models and the vertical-lift TL10V2 and TL12V2 models, enabling customers to select just the right machine for their specific applications.

Each Takeuchi compact track loader features a two-year, 2,000-hour, full-machine warranty. Takeuchi also now includes Takeuchi Fleet Management (TFM) on its track loader lineup, allowing owners and operators to remotely connect and view the health and service needs of their machines.

Each of the five available models is designed to meet the needs of different worksites and applications. The largest models, the TL12V2 and the TL12R, are popular for grading as well as mulching and for use with other hydraulic attachments. The TL8R2 and TL10V2 are our top sellers because they offer numerous advantages for the rental and landscape industries. They’re easy to trailer and very versatile for both grading and with hydraulic attachments. The TL6R is our smallest model, and it offers many of the same advantages as the TL8R2 and TL10V2, but in a more compact package for use in more confined spaces.

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Which companies have the biggest market share for skid steer loaders and track loaders in the North American market today?

I don’t know where Takeuchi ranks at the current time. We just try to focus on building the best possible machines, growing our dealer network and sharpening our marketing campaigns. From there, we believe market share increases will follow.

How many skid steers and CTLs do you think were sold in North America in 2023? How many do you think will be sold in 2024?

Takeuchi TL10V2 track loader with auger attachment

Some sources state that approximately 93,000 compact track loaders were sold worldwide in 2022, compared with 30,000 skid steers. It’s hard to say how many will be sold in 2023 due to ongoing component shortages and shipping issues, but those challenges are diminishing. I would be surprised if we didn’t see a steady increase in compact track loaders sales in 2024. I also think that compact track loader sales will continue to outpace those of skid steers.

The best lift pattern really depends on what the machine’s primary application will be. Takeuchi sells both radial- and vertical-lift models, so I wouldn’t say one is better than the other. We don’t see radial lift going away any time soon. Radial-lift models will have greater bucket breakout and lift arm forces making them a great choice for grading applications. Vertical-lift models will have a higher ROC making them ideal for load-and-carry applications.

What are the biggest markets for skid steers vs. track loaders in 2024? Ag? Homebuilders? Dirt work? Are we seeing skid steers and track loaders diverge even more in usage from contractors?

Both types of machines have applications in which they excel. Skid steers are typically used more in paved/gravel areas for materials handling, demolition and snow removal. Compact track loaders are better for land clearing and dirt work — or any work on soft ground. Skid steers can move more quickly across larger worksites. Contractors are still using both types of machines, just for different purposes.

How big is the rental market for Takeuchi and track loaders? What units generally go into the rental industry?

The rental market for these machines is significant. Every Takeuchi compact track loader is available for rental dealers, and each has a place in rental applications. While many people need a skid steer or a track loader once in a while, fewer need one often enough to justify its purchase. That’s why these machines are so popular in the rental industry. They’re small enough and capable enough to be useful to a wide range of rental customers, from homeowners to contractors.

Takeuchi compact track loader brush cutting

Attachments in general continue to be a growth market for skid steers and track loaders. We’ve seen an increase in purchases of brush cutters, asphalt planers and mulchers. In general, more people are purchasing skid steers and track loaders because they know they can use so many attachments. They may not always know all the ways they’ll eventually use their new machines, but they purchase them because of the versatility that’s sure to come in handy later on.

What new attachment categories are gaining popularity for skid steers and track loaders? Mulchers? Micro trenchers? Grading systems?

We’re seeing more purchases of mulchers, brush cutters and grading systems. Being able to purchase an attachment that can do these kinds of tasks really cuts down on the amount of manual labor, so if you’re doing a lot of them — particularly forestry work — the attachment pays for itself pretty quickly.

What new technologies are evolving the compact track loader industry? Grade control? Autos? Telematics?

Takeuchi Fleet Management Telematics on a compact track loader

Telematics like our Takeuchi Fleet Management [TFM] system continue to change the way owners and operators use their skid steers and compact track loaders. Because telematics systems give owners the ability to remotely monitor their machines’ health, location, service and maintenance and operating hours, they can minimize downtime and control costs. On our compact track loaders, TFM is standard equipment for two years after purchase, so it gives owners and operators the opportunity to see the value of telematics with zero risk. Telematics is also really helpful for rental dealers because it helps them keep track of their machines and their maintenance needs. That means they can schedule maintenance to keep machines out in the field and earning money most of the time.

We know Takeuchi makes some cool electric excavators, but does Takeuchi plan to offer any battery-powered compact track loaders?

Takeuchi does not offer those products at this time.

What advice would you give a contractor looking to buy a new track loader?

Takeuchi compact track loader working in the dirt

I think it’s important to research a machine’s dependability and uptime before making a purchase. Contractors use skid steers and track loaders in the pursuit of their livelihoods, so they need machines that they can trust to be there when they need them. Maintenance is also an important consideration. How difficult or simple is it to perform regular maintenance? If it’s a challenge, you’re less likely to do that maintenance at the recommended intervals. Little things like tilt-up cabs, rear doors and large service hoods may not be flashy when you’re considering a machine, but they’re something that shouldn’t be overlooked. Checking out the range of available, compatible attachments is a must as well. The more contractors can do with their machines, the faster they’ll see a return on their skid steer or track loader investments.

Lee, thanks so much for your time and insights. Learn more about Takeuchi and Takeuchi compact track loaders at takeuchi-us.com.

Keith Gribbins is publisher of Compact Equipment.

Compact track loaders are the most popular category of compact equipment in America. Learn why with loads of track loader features right here.