Pettibone Preps for Future Advancement

With plans to increase its distribution channel to 100 dealers by the end of 2008, Baraga, Mich.-based Pettibone's expansion strategies focus on both the short and long term. Lift and Access spoke with President Bill Loughman just hours before the Associated Equipment Distributors' Annual Meeting & CONDEX tradeshow • an event that he said “offers a great opportunity for finding new dealers” • to learn more on his tactics for strengthening Pettibone's position in North America and overseas.

As president of Pettibone for the last year and a half, Loughman said he recognized almost immediately that the company needed to expand its distribution channels in order to drive sales and market exposure. With the number of dealers “staying stagnant at 65 to 70,” Loughman said he made a promise to the owner of Pettibone that he would improve the number of dealers by 10 per year with a goal to reach at least 100 by the end of 2008.

Since August 2005, Pettibone has signed on 13 new dealers, including Mazzotta Rentals in Middletown, Conn., OCT Equipment LLC in Oklahoma City, Okla., and U-Save Equipment in San Francisco, Calif., to name a few. “We're talking to 12 more right now,” Loughman said, adding that he is at about 75 percent of his goal.

Determining distribution areas

When Pettibone seeks new distributors, Loughman said it looks for current heavy construction equipment distributors that have an established customer base and want to diversify their product lines. Last year, one of Pettibone's newly signed dealers that also distributed other heavy brands of heavy construction equipment sold 23 Pettibone machines. To put it into perspective, Loughman said, “Our largest dealers usually sell 50 or 60 machines.”

Regions with a strong construction market but soft machine sales are potential areas for growth. For one, Pettibone has solid machine sales in Southern California, but the company is looking for more coverage Los Angeles and San Francisco. South Texas is also another area where Pettibone intends to grow.

However, Loughman acknowledges there will be areas in which Pettibone will not be able to establish a dealership, but he said he has a plan for getting machines into those regions. Although the company has not actively pursued rental market for some time, he said that “Pettibone is entertaining the idea of selling to rental centers” in certain markets that cannot support a distributor. “This strategy plays both sides,” he added.

Expanding overseas

No longer limiting itself to North America, Pettibone has launched a plan to go international. A London, England-based engineer/salesperson was recently hired to handle CE certification of its product lines • however, Loughman said a date has not been established for when Pettibone's equipment will be certified and available overseas.

Increased sales of the heavy duty Cary-Lift products are the driving force behind Pettibone's determination to establish dealers abroad • in fact, Loughman said Extendo telehandler sales were soft in 2006 while the Cary-Lift sales actually grew company revenues by 9 percent. Interest from the worldwide steel and oil and gas industries has led to three Cary-Lift dealer signings • Top Lift in Ontario, Canada, CECA in Algeria, and WA Truck in Western Australia • in the past year. Once a strong commitment has been made by overseas dealers, Loughman said, “Further down the road, as this develops, I can see Pettibone establishing an office outside London.”

Product developments

At ConExpo 2005, Pettibone announced that all machines would have a Qualcomm GPS System installed as standard equipment, but in the last few weeks, Loughman made a decision to include this system only as an option. The reason: Equipment owners with several Pettibone machines and multiple operators on staff found the GPS system helpful, noting the geo-fences and maintenance features as a great service. However, smaller owners with only one or two machines had no need to know where the machine was located • if the machine was on the job, its owner was also there.

“We gave it a year and a half and found that about 45 percent of all machines had a subscription, while the other 55 percent didn't,” Loughman said. This strategy not only saves Pettibone a few bucks, but it also still allows equipment owners the option of using this service if they need it.

Surprisingly, new telehandlers coming down the pipe will be on both ends of the size spectrum. With a reputation for making robust equipment, Loughman said Pettibone plans for its Extendo line to be even bigger and more heavy duty. Currently, this product line features machines with 6,000- to 10,000-pound capacities. By late 2008, the Extendo line may include machines in the 12,000- to 20,000-pound capacity range.

With about 50 percent of all telehandlers currently sold in the compact 5,000- to 6,000-pound capacity range, Pettibone also is preparing to introduce a 5,000-pound capacity compact machine in late 2008. While the company currently offers a 6,000-pound unit, Loughman said this machine “does more than some 8,000- to 10,000-pound telehandlers.” He noted a changed mentality is in order for Pettibone to build a machine that is competitively priced with other compacts on the market.