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Mowing Trends 2016

Landscape and Irrigation (L&I) recently asked experts from some of the largest commercial mower manufacturers about the latest mowing trends to help landscape professionals prepare their mower fleets for the upcoming season. Their responses were as follows:

 

L&I: Please tell us about your latest commercial mowers, and what landscape professionals need to know about your equipment heading into 2016.

 

BOB-CAT prides itself on three core values: durability, quality of cut, and ease of ownership. All of our latest product improvements focus on enhancing these values. BOB-CAT has a new industry-leading Mow with Confidence limited warranty on all our commercial mowers — 6 years or 2,750 hours on our larger zero-turn Predator-Pro and ProCat models, and 3 years or 2,500 hours on our walk-behind models. Our commercial mowers have new Zero-T drive tires with an improved tread pattern that provides a greater grip on hillsides. BOB-CAT mower decks now have a patented modified double-wave baffle system for enhanced cut quality, a trim side deck guard, and a larger discharge chute for improved grass disbursement.

BOB-CAT has a new family of stand-on mowers called the QuickCat. With an initial production year that far exceeded our, and our customers’, expectations, we have set the new standard in the stand-on market, and that family lineup will continue to grow this year.

The QuickCat features an 8-mph mowing speed and 10.5-mph transport speed for productive mowing, extra-large drive tires for a smooth ride and reliable traction, and a 6.5-gallon gas tank to reduce the need to stop and refuel. The QuickCat also touts a compact design for easy maneuvering in tight spaces; low fuel-tank placement for improved balance; and a sturdy, optimal operator platform for center of mass stability.

— Ron Scheffler, product manager, BOB-CAT

 

At Exmark, we are using feedback from our customers to help us understand where innovation has value. It has led us to do more with ergonomics and operator comfort, for example. Whether it’s suspending the operator platform on our Lazer Z zero-turn riding mowers, or implementing our patented Enhanced Control System (ECS) throughout our wide-area walk-behind mower line, we’re working hard to build machines that make tough jobs a little easier for landscape professionals.

Rear-discharge cutting decks are available on more Exmark models than ever for 2016, including for the first time on our premier Lazer Z X-Series machine. Reduced noise; greater capacity; and even, controlled clipping dispersal are three compelling reasons an ever-increasing number of landscape professionals are making the switch to rear discharge. Not to mention, the UltraCut rear-discharge deck is the most versatile cutting deck Exmark builds. It delivers a great quality of cut in an incredibly wide variety of conditions.

Exmark is also making it easier for landscape professionals to own our premier commercial zero-turn mowers. In fact, we recently announced special suggested pricing on 52- and 60-inch Kohler-powered builds of the Lazer Z E-Series machine starting as low as $8,499. This makes the Lazer Z E-Series an ideal mower for large fleets, or simply for landscape professionals who keep a keen eye on the bottom line.

The machine strikes a perfect balance of value, productivity and performance, with the commercial durability our customers expect.

— Daryn Walters, Exmark director of marketing

 

Grasshopper is excited to introduce two new mowers for 2016: Models 125V/61 and 126V/61. We believe they will be the “sweet spot” for contractors looking to make the step up from walk-behind and stand-on mowers to the zero-turn rider category. These new models feature 61-inch cutting decks; fully hydraulic integrated pump-and-wheel-motor transmissions (with “no gear” drives for better power transfer to the cutting deck and smoother response and control); single-fill, 6.5-gallon fuel tanks located under the seat for a lower center of gravity and terrain-hugging traction; and an integrated in-frame suspension with iso-mounted seat and footrest for an unprecedented vibration-free experience. Not only that, but with a retail price of under $6,000, we expect these two models to turn heads.

— Mike Simmon, communications specialist, Grasshopper

 

We want landscapers to know that 2016 is the 100-year anniversary for Gravely, and we’ve majorly revamped our lineup to commemorate that milestone. We’ve made changes to the Pro-Turn 200 and 400 lineups, the Pro-Stance and the ZT-XL. Several performance and comfort upgrades have been made, in addition to an entirely new look for the machines. We also brought back the first product that Gravely ever made — and for which our brand was known throughout the 20th century — the two-wheeled tractor. Our new product, the Pro-QXT, continues our heritage, and offers landscapers and facilities managers a unique solution for several everyday tasks.

— Bill Engler, director of Gravely brand

 

Super Z HyperDrive — what can be said? There is no competition to this mower. Industry-leading industrial-grade slipper piston pumps and high-torque wheel motors, along with a hydraulic oil cooler with electric fan and hot oil shuttle, separate this mower from any other on the market. It features a five-year, 3,000-hour warranty on the pumps and motors, and a Hustler exclusive five-year engine warranty on the Vanguard Big Block and Vanguard Big Block EFI engines. Extreme comfort is provided with a Grammer full suspension seat.

Also new is the Super 104 zero-turn mower, which features a 104-inch cut — making it 45 percent more productive than a 72-inch zero-turn mower. The wings fold up for a transport/trailer width of 80 inches. It features industrial-grade pumps and motors and Vanguard Big Block and Big Block EFI engines with a five-year exclusive Hustler engine warranty.

Super Z has all the features of a high-end commercial zero turn, now with Kawasaki FX engines and Kohler EFI engines.

— Brad Unruh, director of product strategy, Excel Industries (Hustler)

 

John Deere is adding a new zero-turn mower to our lineup — the Z960M ZTrak. The Z960M provides professional landscape contractors with a powerful, reliable machine at an affordable price point. Boasting 31 hp., the Z960M is available in three deck offerings — 60-inch, 60-inch Mulch On Demand (MOD), or 72-inch.

In addition, the existing Z970R is now available with two additional deck options — 60-inch side discharge (SD) or 60-inch Mulch On Demand (MOD), offering more deck options on the most powerful machine in the Z900 Series lineup.

Also, EnviroGard recently announced the expansion of the propane conversion program for John Deere commercial mowers. The program now encompasses 36 different models, including 21 zero-turn mowers, seven QuikTrak stand-on mowers and eight commercial walk-behind mowers.

— Nick Minas, product manager, John Deere Commercial Mowing

 

In the last three months, Kubota introduced three new commercial walk-behind mowers: a 36-inch gear-drive model (WG14-36), a 48-inch hydrostatic-drive model (WH15-48), and a 52-inch hydrostatic-drive model (WHF19-52), each powered by reliable Kawasaki V-twin gas engines. The WG14-36 uses a five-speed gear-drive transmission, while the WH15-48 and WHF19-52 use proven Hydro-Gear variable displacement pumps with Parker wheel motors. All models feature fabricated welded steel decks, maintenance-free spindles, electric clutches and adjustable cutting heights ranging from 1-3/8 to 4-5/8 inches, making them ideal for all grass types. With this introduction, Kubota dealers can now serve as a one-stop shop for all your turf equipment needs.

As part of its continued focus on the commercial mower market, Kubota recently introduced two all-new ZD Series of zero-turn mowers that have greatly improved performance, operation and comfort features. Kubota also introduced a new generation of its popular BX Series Drive-Over mid-mount mower decks for Kubota subcompact tractors.

— Tom Vachal, Kubota senior product manager for turf equipment

 

This year brings a few exciting things to our lineup. We just launched a new line of commercial walk-behinds with cutting widths ranging from 32 to 61 inches in hydro- and gear-driven configurations. These walk behinds are uniquely balanced, have more user-friendly controls, and offer an easy-to-use Velke latch system.

— Shawn Wolf, president, Wright Manufacturing

 

Husqvarna offers three different series of professional riding zero-turn units, depending on the needs of the user. All of our units are engineered specifically to the user’s needs. Small ergonomic differences, best-in-class quality and industry-leading warranties make Husqvarna mowers stand apart from the competition. Our units are aimed for high productivity and user comfort. For example, our wide-stance design increases stability on the mowing incline.

Husqvarna zero-turns include the M-ZT units designed for the part-time lawn maintenance person or someone just getting into the business, where budget is a driving factor in the overall decision. Usually the focus with these operators is on residential properties. It is also ideal for schools and municipalities on a budget. The P-ZT series is designed for both residential and commercial/industrial property applications, as it can handle the rougher terrain and give it the beautiful, striped look the customer is looking for. The PZ mower, the best of the best, is equipped with a lifetime warranty on the leading-edge seven-gauge deck and also comes with cast-iron deck spindles with a lifetime warranty. Both the P-ZT and PZ feature a 2×3-inch welded frame that also comes with a lifetime warranty; this ensures that the user can operate at maximum efficiency, and faster cutting speeds mean more productivity. The PZ is designed with an isolated platform and full-floating seat to produce a smooth ride that reduces fatigue and accidents.

— Walt Rose, national sales manager for commercial lawn & garden and tree care, Husqvarna

 

L&I: What trends are you seeing in the market overall with regard to mower design/manufacture?

 

In our ever-evolving technological age, features are being added to mowers to bring about awareness to the operator on when to service, GPS features, smartphone interface, fuel efficiency, etc.

— Ron Scheffler, product manager, BOB-CAT

 

In today’s market, we are seeing that landscape professionals are becoming more demanding and have higher expectations for their fleet. Since their margins are tight with labor and equipment costs, mowing equipment needs to contribute to the bottom line while being strong, powerful, efficient and comfortable. They want to feel confident that they made the best choice when they add to their fleet. At Cub Cadet, we offer electronic fuel injected (EFI) engines, premium transmissions and new steering technology to deliver a product that does just that. Mowing with more efficient engines will maximize run time, giving professionals more time between refueling, which translates to serving customers more quickly.

— Joe Schilens, director of product marketing for commercial products, Cub Cadet

 

There continues to be a push to reduce operational costs, even as fuel prices have trended lower. Technologies that reduce fuel consumption whenever the machine is running, and those that allow operators to understand how fuel is being used, will have an increasing value in this Information Age.

But technology for technology’s sake is a dangerous path. At Exmark, we’ve taken a very different position. Every technology we develop provides a distinct, tangible benefit to the user. Technology focused on operator comfort is a good example of this, and it’s an area in which Exmark has invested heavily. From the patented ECS control system on Exmark wide-area walk-behind mowers, to the numerous comfort and suspension technologies available on Exmark zero-turn riding mowers, we’re working hard to make it easier and more sustainable for landscape professionals to be productive every day.

— Daryn Walters, Exmark director of marketing

 

Greater emphasis on comfort and ergonomics. We’re working to take every bit of vibration out of the ride for greater comfort and operator productivity. Not only that, but with reduced vibration, there is a better transfer of power to the cutting deck, which improves cut quality. Improved efficiency is also a focus, especially in terms of increasing fuel economy and decreasing fuel consumption.

— Mike Simmon, communications specialist, Grasshopper

 

We are continuing the trend from 2015 that saw manufacturers increasing operator comfort on their machines while creating designs that reduce operational expenses. At Gravely, we’ve put an emphasis on using more durable parts that hold up longer than just one season of cutting, which helps cut costs for our end users and ensure that downtime is eliminated. Operator safety also continues to be important to contractors, so we’ve designed our machines with a lower center of gravity, a clear view of the trim edge, and easy access to perform regular maintenance.

— Bill Engler, director of Gravely brand

 

Keep it simple and durable; this is what Hustler is known for. Commercial operators want to spend the day mowing, not fixing equipment. Also, an emphasis on EFI engines and operator comfort, thus why we use the best, most comfortable full-suspension seat on the market in our commercial mowers.

— Brad Unruh, director of product strategy, Excel Industries (Hustler)

 

Manufacturers are developing more efficient, comfortable machines. From an efficiency standpoint, manufacturers want to improve machine operability and productivity, helping to minimize downtime, as well as fuel and labor costs.

As a result, we are seeing more machines incorporating efficient solutions. One example of this is Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) engine machines, which have become increasingly popular. While we initially saw EFI engines being used in smaller block engines, we are now seeing more and more options in the mid-block range and greater. The fuel-efficiency benefits of EFI engines are driving this trend; by providing up to 25 percent more fuel savings, EFI offers a more efficient option for landscape contractors.

Another trend we are seeing is the focus on operator comfort. Manufacturers are updating machines and introducing new features to improve comfort, ultimately improving productivity. From ergonomic operator controls and air-suspension, upholstered seats to cab machines with heat and air, the latest offerings have the operator in mind.

— Nick Minas, product manager, John Deere Commercial Mowing

 

We have seen a growing demand of consolidating and simplifying equipment fleet acquisition and maintenance programs from landscape professionals. At Kubota, we recently made product and service introductions that have positioned the company as a full-service, one-stop shop for our turf equipment customers. Kubota’s zero-turn mowers and lawn tractors maintain a strong reputation for quality and reliability. Since initiating our alliance with Echo for handheld outdoor power equipment, and now with our introduction of commercial walk-behind mowers, we’re providing turf customers with all the products they need, under one roof.

— Tom Vachal, Kubota senior product manager for turf equipment

 

We are seeing that the concept of standing on a mower is really being embraced more than ever before (maybe because of the popularity of hoverboards?). The question is no longer “Why should I stand?” but rather “What stand-on mower should I buy?” Up until this point, stand-on mowers have appealed, mostly, to the heavy-duty segment of the commercial market where we live, and we believe that as more options come into the market, standing will become more popular in other market segments.

— Shawn Wolf, president, Wright Manufacturing

 

Manufacturers today are continuously looking for ways to increase user comfort and productivity. Suspension systems for operator comfort are being more readily introduced, as well as more electronics — again for ease of use — as compared to the old manual systems. There is also an increase in the electronic fuel injection (EFI) engine, which reduces fuel consumption while maintaining high productivity.

— Walt Rose, national sales manager for commercial lawn & garden and tree care, Husqvarna

 

L&I: How have the wants/needs of landscape pros changed? And how are manufacturers addressing those needs?

 

Landscaping professionals need to be more efficient than ever before; and they demand mowers that are ready to work, day in and day out, in varied elements, with quick on-the-go adjustments as needed. BOB-CAT mowers address those needs by having our mowers engineered on performance, operation and service.

— Ron Scheffler, product manager, BOB-CAT

 

Dealer support for professional landscapers continues to be important. Manufacturers are helping dealers maintain their bottom line by providing the right financing options for new equipment and minimizing downtime by keeping their equipment running with quality parts and service. We address the needs of the pros by listening to what landscapers say they want in their equipment and service. Equipment usage varies among different types of contractors, but most need warranties with no strings attached and no hour limits. We worked very closely with a number of professional landscapers to design the PRO Z Series, and responded to requests for comfort; strength; durability; superior cut quality; and powerful, efficient drive systems. Other important considerations are durability and reliability because downtime means lost income for landscaping professionals. This is why Cub Cadet uses premium engines and transmissions, as well as heavy-duty fully reinforced steel frames, front axles and cutting decks. These best-in-class features — plus intuitive controls, ergonomic design and high visibility — give operators the ability to mow smoothly and efficiently all day long. The PRO Z 100 Series is backed by the strongest Cub Cadet commercial warranty.

— Joe Schilens, director of product marketing for commercial products, Cub Cadet

 

Reducing costs and consumption while increasing productivity are trends we’re seeing here. That said, the needs of contractors at a fundamental level haven’t changed dramatically. They always need to drive greater profit in their services, which means being more productive while reducing input costs.

Making work sustainable is another growing desire among landscape professionals. Experienced landscape pros know the equipment has come a long way in the past 10 years, but recent advances such as Exmark’s suspended operator platform are raising the bar even higher on the comfort of our latest mowers.

An increasing number of landscape professionals are realizing how profitable and relatively easy it is to offer services such as aeration, fertilization and weed killing, in addition to mowing. It’s a trend being driven at the consumer level. Homeowners don’t want to call one contractor for mowing, but another for aeration or fertilization. They want one lawn care expert to simply deliver a beautiful lawn.

At Exmark, we’re supporting this trend with industry-leading stand-on machines, including the new spreader sprayer and 30-inch aerator. These productive new machines allow landscape professionals to offer the services their customers are asking for, and deliver unmatched results.

— Daryn Walters, Exmark director of marketing

 

The trend continues to be a focus on efficiency and productivity. Grasshopper is constantly innovating to bring to market products that improve productivity and efficiency, like the Models 125V/61 and 126V/61 mentioned earlier. Larger decks, larger fuel capacities and better drive systems increase the amount of work that can be done, and decrease the time to do it. Grasshopper also continues to focus on year-round implements that improve the productivity of equipment from season to season. The more work you can get out of a mower — from mowing season to snow removal to aeration and spraying — the more you can improve your bottom line and increase profits.

— Mike Simmon, communications specialist, Grasshopper

 

We don’t believe that the needs of landscape professionals have changed as far as the machine is concerned. The landscaper still wants a machine that is bulletproof from a maintenance standpoint and performs well under any conditions. We continue to simplify our machines by developing the best subcomponents to increase reliability and durability. We also know that landscapers continue to feel pressure from competitors, healthcare regulations and employees, so they expect more from their vendor partners. They’re consistently reaching out for support — not only from their dealer, but from their equipment manufacturer as well.

— Bill Engler, director of Gravely brand

 

Again, keep the machine simple, easy to work on, and less parts. Operator comfort is also key.

— Brad Unruh, director of product strategy, Excel Industries (Hustler)

 

Efficiency is a driving factor for landscape professionals — they are looking for ways to streamline their businesses, from machines to manpower and cost of operation. From a machine productivity standpoint, manufacturers are making changes that increase efficiencies for landscape professionals. The ultimate goal is to create a machine that can be productive while minimizing labor costs.

One way John Deere is addressing that need is by increasing our Mulch On Demand offerings, which enable the operator to easily switch between side discharge and mulching. Additionally, manufacturers are making small changes, such as putting larger decks on smaller machines, to make those machines more productive.

— Nick Minas, product manager, John Deere Commercial Mowing

 

Landscape pros are trying to consolidate their purchases to allow them to focus more on the customer than unit and product acquisition cost. This is why Kubota continues to add to its commercial products offering, allowing the dealers to compete for that consolidated business. Kubota will continue to focus on the landscape pro, and to bring them the products they need to win the landscape pro’s business.

— Tom Vachal, Kubota senior product manager for turf equipment

 

The landscaping business has always been very competitive, and we see increasing desire, first, for greater productivity and flexibility and, second, cost of ownership. This means mowers must be lighter, more agile, last longer and require less weekly/monthly service, have greater fuel capacity, be increasingly reliable, and easier and safer for new employees to operate.

— Shawn Wolf, president, Wright Manufacturing

 

Landscape professionals are looking for comfort, cutting speed and quality cutting at the best price they can find. For a major brand to continue to grow and gain market share in this extremely competitive market, it is imperative to truly understand the user’s needs. Innovation, design changes and engine enhancements are paramount. Husqvarna hosts a Pro Summit annually to bring in landscape professionals to talk about product needs, user desires and reviews of current platforms. We get their input on what they would like to see in design and product. We also take the opportunity to give them a look into the future of what might be coming down the road.

— Walt Rose, national sales manager for commercial lawn & garden and tree care, Husqvarna

 

L&I: What advice would you provide to landscape/lawn care professionals who are looking to add to their mower fleet for the 2016 season?

 

Compare products for yourself. Most dealers have, or have access to, demo equipment that can be utilized to ensure you pick the best mower for the job. The Internet is a great tool for initial reviews and product identification, but nothing beats a personal review on the actual equipment. BOB-CAT mowers have confidence built into their design and manufacturing, and we are confident going against anyone in the market. That is a main reason for our new Mow with Confidence true industry-leading warranty. We are confident in our product, and we want you to be too.

— Ron Scheffler, product manager, BOB-CAT

 

When selecting a commercial mower, Cub Cadet believes professionals should not need to compromise their needs for cost. Lawn care professionals need products that will withstand the demands of the busy cutting season, mow efficiently for 8-plus hours a day, and provide a comfortable ride with intuitive controls. At the end of the day, the mowing system needs to deliver a perfectly cut lawn for their customers, so we recommend working with their local dealers, taking a test drive, and finding the product that best suits their specific needs.

— Joe Schilens, director of product marketing for commercial products, Cub Cadet

 

Look for mowers that meet the unique needs of your business and the customers you serve. Be discerning in your evaluation of the value of new technology. It’s helpful if you know what key performance indicators will determine the value of a mower to your business. Qualities such as productivity, durability, cut quality, operator comfort and price will have varying levels of importance to different landscape professionals.

Take the time to understand what aspects of mower performance are most important, and you’ll have an easier time deciding on the best mix of mowers for your business. Price is only an issue in the absence of value, so if you do a true needs assessment, you can justify an expense if it’s going to deliver the expected return.

— Daryn Walters, Exmark director of marketing

 

Look for mowers that are not only productive on the job — such as those that offer the lowest cost of operation per hour in terms of fuel usage and cutting capacity — but also for mowers that offer less work, after work. Maintenance costs, including labor and parts, are the hidden costs of equipment. Grasshopper mowers offer the lowest maintenance costs with the least number of grease points, longest intervals between transmission fluid changes (up to 1,000 hours), and the longest operating life and trade-in value compared to other mowers in their class.

— Mike Simmon, communications specialist, Grasshopper

 

It’s necessary to always understand the types of properties that you’re servicing, and make sure that you are buying the best tool for the job. We often hear that contractors want machines with more power. However, more power usually creates a heavier machine; and mowers with a lot of weight have been known to damage properties, lead to higher fuel costs and more expensive repairs, and have a higher sticker price. We offer technology on our mowers that allows the contractor to monitor how much load is being put on their mower and how long the machine is sitting idle. This can really help them understand their properties and figure out what right-sized equipment is required for the job.

Contractors should also buy a brand from a dealer who has a good reputation in their local market. More importantly, that dealer should also have a strong relationship with the equipment manufacturer. This can pay off big time post-sale when the machine requires service to keep it running.

— Bill Engler, director of Gravely brand

 

Buy on quality and durability, not on flashy gimmicks. Pick a dealer that is there for you if any issues arise and that has a good inventory of commonly used parts on the shelf.

— Brad Unruh, director of product strategy, Excel Industries (Hustler)

 

It is important for landscape professionals to understand their customers and use that knowledge to determine what type of machine they should add to their mower fleet.

If you are considering a mower purchase in 2016, think about what type of landscape that machine will be used on. Are you maintaining mainly residential lawns? If so, perhaps consider a narrower, more nimble machine and deck, opposed to what you would need for a larger commercial property where productivity is vital.

If productivity is a concern, you may want to consider a larger deck. Productivity can also be increased with our Mulch On Demand decks, which allow the operator to easily switch between side discharge and mulching.

Finally, consider your expenses and look for ways to improve your bottom line. If you experience a high volume of flat tires, a John Deere ZTrak equipped with the Michelin X Tweel Turf will increase uptime and reduce your overall maintenance expenses.

— Nick Minas, product manager, John Deere Commercial Mowing

 

The landscape pro should continue to focus on uptime. Uptime really has two components: increased production time, and reduced time and cost in the shop.

Focusing on increased production time allows the landscape pro to complete more jobs and earn more. This focus will also allow the landscape pro to be more competitive in his/her service area.

— Tom Vachal, Kubota senior product manager for turf equipment

 

When looking for a stand-on mower, be sure to look closely at productivity — if your core business is mowing, then even a small change in productivity can have a large impact on your business.

— Shawn Wolf, president, Wright Manufacturing

 

Focus on a brand that can support all of your needs — not only from the commercial wheeled product category, but also in the professional handheld product category, such as string trimmers, blowers, edgers and hedge trimmers. Of course, after-sales support is key. Because downtime costs money, availability of maintenance and service parts is important. It is imperative to have a supporting dealer that has built his business around the commercial customer and understands the needs of a landscape company.

— Walt Rose, national sales manager for commercial lawn & garden and tree care, Husqvarna

 

L&I: What should prospective buyers keep in mind when it comes to engine options?

 

Potential buyers need to assess the properties they maintain and understand what their real needs are for deck sizes and the horsepower rating to ensure the machine will handle all their needs. Fuel-efficient engines should also be considered against their bottom line as fuel prices fluctuate, as well as whether or not the dealer is a certified mechanic for that brand engine.

— Ron Scheffler, product manager, BOB-CAT

 

Selecting the right engine for the job at hand is important. The engine works in conjunction with the drive system and cutting deck to deliver overall performance, efficiency and cut quality. EFI engines are extremely efficient and will cut down on fuel use and maintenance. A trusted dealer will help professionals select the best horsepower and engine displacement for their needs. We recommend that professionals read peer reviews and test drive the equipment at their local dealer to make an informed decision.

— Joe Schilens, director of product marketing for commercial products, Cub Cadet

 

Do your research and understand not only the capabilities of a particular engine, but also its output and historical performance record. While engines are continually improving, knowledge is power when it comes to making wise powerplant choices.

— Daryn Walters, Exmark director of marketing

 

The engine is the heart of the mower, so it needs to be powerful and efficient — not only that, but matched to the size of the chassis, the deck and the transmission. Also, understand that fuel consumption is directly related to the size of the engine. Buying the largest engine for the sake of more horsepower is not always in the best interest of the bottom line.

For contractors who are serious about cutting fuel costs, consider Grasshopper MaxTorque Clean Diesel mowers. Grasshopper diesel models consistently use less than half the fuel compared to gas-powered counterparts, which can translate to thousands of dollars in savings every year. Not only that, but they are the cleanest-burning engines on the market today, with lower emissions rates per hour of use than even propane. That sounds unbelievable, especially with the perception of propane as an “alternative fuel,” but the proof is in the numbers. Grasshopper has conducted quite a bit of research on this issue, and diesel is the clear winner in terms of economics and environment. Learn more at grasshopperfuelsavings.com.

— Mike Simmon, communications specialist, Grasshopper

 

At Gravely, we design our machines in conjunction with the engine, meaning the units we produce are tested to operate at the most optimal level. Each engine manufacturer carries a separate warranty from the machine. We understand those various warranties very well, but you should always make sure that your dealer is an authorized center for that engine.

When it comes to the various options, Gravely has several on its commercial mowers. We have diesel, EFI and LP options on the Pro-Turn 400, which gives landscapers the freedom to select the fuel that works best with their business model.

— Bill Engler, director of Gravely brand

 

EFI seems to be gaining more and more momentum. Look at engine warranties, and make sure the dealer is certified to work on the engines they sell.

— Brad Unruh, director of product strategy, Excel Industries (Hustler)

 

It is important for professional landscape contractors to understand their business needs. Evaluate your business to ensure that you are applying the right engine to the job. A common mistake is that contractors will purchase the most powerful engine available, thinking that it will increase productivity, saving labor costs, when, in reality, it actually wastes fuel. What job are you trying to complete? Are you mowing a hilly area, or is the terrain flat? Understanding the application and what you intend to do will dictate the size of engine needed.

— Nick Minas, product manager, John Deere Commercial Mowing

 

I believe buyers should understand the durability expectations of the engines they are considering. There are different expectations for applications, and they should talk to their local turf dealer for details on the different models. Another key is to make sure that the machine has enough horsepower to meet your performance expectations, because this may limit what the machine is capable of.

— Tom Vachal, Kubota senior product manager for turf equipment

 

Right now, it’s a buyers’ market for engines. The current engines in the market are some of the more durable and efficient ever produced. We see increasing expectations for engines equipped with heavy-duty options, for example, shift starters, large air cleaners and clean-out ports. We have also seen a strong uptick in the number of EFI engines sold. Look for heavy-duty features that extend the life of your investment; even with low fuel prices, the reliability and efficiency of EFI can begin paying you back in your first month of ownership.

— Shawn Wolf, president, Wright Manufacturing

 

The three types of engines we see today are gasoline, propane and diesel. The gasoline engine seems to be the most popular because the cost of the machine is often less, and refueling during the day is often easier. EFI has become popular today because of its efficiency. The engine offers better fuel economy, more torque and horsepower, longer engine life, and the ability to adjust to any mowing conditions the operator might encounter during the season. Husqvarna offers two choices in EFI engines this year.

— Walt Rose, national sales manager for commercial lawn & garden and tree care, Husqvarna

 

L&I: What is your overall outlook with regard to mower sales in 2016?

 

Our overall mower sales are expected to be stronger than previous years. BOB-CAT has many opportunities with newer products to get into some market areas where we were not involved — especially our new QuickCat stand-on mower family, which has had a phenomenal first year. Our new true industry-leading warranty on our commercial zero-turn ProCat/Predator Pro models, as well as our walk-behind models, will support our sales.

— Ron Scheffler, product manager, BOB-CAT

 

We expect a strong sales season. While professionals will continue to have choices among different brands, they are more educated than ever about selecting the best mower for their needs. As the 2016 season quickly approaches, there will be a number of events where landscaping professionals will have the opportunity to drive and evaluate new products. Keep an eye out for select Cub Cadet events starting late March this year. These events offer opportunities for pros to see what the latest designs and technology have to offer. We feel that a desire for engine efficiency without compromising cut or comfort will drive purchases of Cub Cadet pro products in 2016.

— Joe Schilens, director of product marketing for commercial products, Cub Cadet

 

We feel positive about the outlook for the 2016 season. Based on the models we’re seeing, many parts of the country will enter into spring with optimal mowing conditions. Fuel prices aren’t showing signs of dramatic change, so if the favorable weather conditions pan out, a lot of our customers should be feeling very good about the 2016 season.

And while not all of our customers operate like this, a lot of contractors push snow in the winter. If the forecasted mild winter pans out, those without contracts will likely not have the best winter. That said, contractors who had snow contracts but not much snow to push could find themselves sitting pretty good coming into the season. Given the forecast, I imagine a number of those folks will spend their windfall on new mowers.

— Daryn Walters, Exmark director of marketing

 

Overall, we see signs that the mower market is trending up. We’ve seen the impact the weather can have on mower sales — if the grass isn’t growing due to drought, then mowers are not in high demand — but with recent fall rains, and if snow contractors have a good winter season, then 2016 should be a good year for mower sales.

— Mike Simmon, communications specialist, Grasshopper

 

Overall, we will continue to be competitive, but we are looking at continued expansion in the category and strong spring sales in 2016.

— Bill Engler, director of Gravely brand

 

Very optimistic. Shaping up to be another strong year.

— Brad Unruh, director of product strategy, Excel Industries (Hustler)

 

The commercial mowing industry experienced a strong year in 2015, and we expect to see that continue in 2016. Many professional landscape contractors are reporting record revenues in 2015. Across the country, the landscape industry is booming, finally recovering from the recession as customers begin to invest again.

— Nick Minas, product manager, John Deere Commercial Mowing

 

Among other factors, mower sales are dependent on rainfall, the general economy, new-home sales and fuel prices. The current state of the U.S. economy is robust with record-low unemployment rates and new-home sales rebounding back to healthy levels. With interest rates and fuel prices expected to remain low, 2016 is shaping up to be a good year for mower sales.

— Tom Vachal, Kubota senior product manager for turf equipment

 

We see 2016 in a positive light. With many landscape projects and leaf cleanups extending into December, many landscapers have had a long season. Even with somewhat of a level economic position, we see many landscapers moving toward stand-on mowing, which is great for the industry and for our position in the market.

— Shawn Wolf, president, Wright Manufacturing

 

We see strong growth in the zero-turn category, in line with the OPE industry forecasts.

— Walt Rose, national sales manager for commercial lawn & garden and tree care, Husqvarna

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