THE END OF THE MASSEY FERGUSON COMPANY Changes after World War I Following World War One, a severe recession, particularly in the agricultural sector, created a stagnant market for Massey-Harris. But, by decade's end, wheat prices were highest in history and business was booming, that is until 1929. That financial apocalypse, which an entire generation would simply refer to as "The Great Depression", crippled the economy. The result for Massey was eight uninterrupted years of losses totaling twenty million, which is nearly 400 million in today's dollars. Pushed to the financial brink, Massey-Harris needed a new general-manager with experience in manufacturing and a reputation for ruthlessness. Enter Bertram Burtsell, former production superintendent at Packard Motors, an auto manufacturer noted for its rigid and nonconformist labour practices. Burtsell's interests centred wholly on two issues; profit and loss statements and employee productivity. Those he figured expendable were furnished with a prepared statement along with their pink slip, stating simply they were finished at Massey and good luck somewhere else. But this harshness is what shareholders had demanded, someone to mop up the monetary mess by whatever means attainable. WORLD WAR II AND THE HARVEST BRIGADE Though arguably heavy-handed and uncompassionate, Burtsell's tactics of cost slashing and employee firings paid off as Massey-Harris did manage to survive the decade's economic climate. Only a complete reversal of fortunes would be needed to offset the financial pummeling the company had endured. Massey got exactly what was needed; not agricultural sales but war production contracts. Just months after Canada's entrance into World War II, in September 1939, both Massey's Toronto and Woodstock Ontario factories were producing 40 millimetre shells and military truck bodies. Wings for fighter bombers were being built at the Weston plant and army tank treads at Brantford, Ontario. In 1942, Massey-Harris signed an agreement with the United States government to manufacture 1,200 tanks a year, utilizing the recently vacated Nash-Kelvinator plant in Racine, Wisconsin. This lucrative contract would account for sixty percent of the value of all war-related products for the company. Because of the Harvest Brigade program–an agreement signed between the company and the US government to boost grain stocks and food supplies–Massey-Harris received special permission to continue the manufacture of combines during the war. This accomplished two things: it drew special attention to the design and efficiency of Massey combines and the company was ready to ramp-up combine production when the war finally ended. While other companies were retooling after war production ended, Massey was already producing quality combines. This gave Massey-Harris and later Massey Ferguson the lion’s share of the combine business in North America and Europe. However, following the war, an expected recession materialized but the company had seemingly regained its footing by the early 1950's with two major accomplishments: acquiring Britain's Frank Perkins Limited, leaders in diesel engine technology and partnering with Irish inventor, Harry Ferguson. This gave the company access to the brilliant hydraulic system he had developed, a system that would revolutionize the agriculture industry. Another acquisition that would pay huge dividends in the future was the purchase of the Standard Motor Company's factory in Coventry England, a factory that had been building Ferguson tractors since 1946. Beginning in 1959, Massey would go on to manufacture some two and half million tractors at that site. THE MERGER WITH HARRY FERGUSON Although the undisputed sales leader in combines, Massey-Harris had lagged far behind its competition in tractor development and Ferguson's "three-point-hitch" was the spark needed to help ignite this stalled segment of their industry. But even that achievement proved a managerial headache, the company was trying to operate both Massey-Harris and Ferguson dealerships as separate entities under the awkward and cumbersome banner of Massey-Harris-Ferguson Company. Both were selling basically the same size tractors in direct competition with each other. Five years passed before this unwieldly management structure was able to forge a single distribution and dealer network under the banner of Massey Ferguson. But not before dragging the farm machinery company to the brink of financial disaster. KING OF THE TRACTOR MAKERS–THE 1960’S What would prove to be Massey-Ferguson's most profitable and successful period in its history was during the 1960's when world-wide sales of tractors and combines reached their zenith. Nearly 50% of all tractors sold in the world at that time had the triple-triangle logo emblazoned on their hoods and MF self-propelled combines had an 80% market share–unheard of for a single agricultural unit from any company before or since. At its peak, Massey Ferguson had twenty-seven factories constructing a variety of machinery in ten countries with net sales of 600 million and an employment roster of 40,000 people. This utopia lasted for about ten years. A severe downturn in business in the early 1970's quickly affected the company's financial fortunes. Due to a wide-range of issues: political instability, reduced exports to Third World countries and falling commodity prices on domestic products, resulted in machinery sales taking a beating. The fall-out caused Massey Ferguson market shares to drop by half on the Canadian Stock Exchange, hurling the company into yet another financial abyss, seemingly a once every decade occurrence. Business perked up again for a few years until the roller-coaster ride, disguised as the farm machinery business, began another precipitous plunge. This time the culprit was ballooning interest rates. South American markets were experiencing similar economic conditions while European farmers had suffered two successive years of poor crops, which further affected machinery sales. THE DOWNHILL SLIDE BEGINS The weak link in Massey's chosen path appeared to be its sheer size and complexity. With a multitude of operations in as many countries controlled by vice-presidents and general-managers distracted with personal agendas, the economic repercussions from global calamities often took weeks to trickle back to Toronto's head office. If ever a company needed strong leadership and guidance it was now. With interest rates at 20% plus, losses were staggering. Over a $100 million in 1976, $200 million in 1978 and $400 million by 1980. At a time when decisions on how to reverse company fortunes should have been paramount, MF executives were preoccupied with personality conflicts, self-interest disputes and shareholder dividend issues. The organization was now controlled by politicians, lawyers, accountants, lumber magnates, and brewery and newspaper tycoons, who had by all appearances, lost touch with the grass roots. Finally in 1981 and facing a monumental debt load of nearly $700 million, Massey Ferguson was rescued in one of the most complicated bail-outs in industrial history, involving governments, banks and other financial institutions world-wide. But the cost was enormous; still recovering from mass lay-offs at the beginning of the decade, MF's Toronto and Brantford plants issued unemployment notices to another 5,000 workers. American factories yielded 2,000 jobs, while similar lay-offs affected company offices and factories across the globe. THE NEWLY FORMED AGCO CORPORATION Massey certainly wasn't alone in the agricultural free-fall of the 1980's as industry giants Allis-Chalmers and International-Harvester succumbed to insurmountable debt; the former absorbed by German farm equipment leader, Deutz, while Case farm equipment's parent company, Tenneco, purchased I-H. The following decade would witness Massey Ferguson purchased by the AGCO corporation; at the time the only company left in the world totally dedicated to the sale of agricultural equipment. AGCO was established in 1990, when executives at Deutz-Allis bought the North American operations from the parent company, Klockner-Humbolt-Deutz that owned the Deutz-Fahr brand of equipment. KHD had purchased part of the Allis-Chalmers equipment business five years earlier. The newly organized company was first called Gleaner-Allis Corporation. In 1991, the name was changed to Allis-Cleaner Corporation or simply AGCO. AGCO had in its stable, a mélange of nameplates old and new: Oliver, Minneapolis-Moline, Cockshutt, Gleaner, White, Allis Chalmers, New Idea, Allied, Valtra, Fendt, Caterpillar, GSI, Hesston, Challenger and Precision Planting. It was a very impressive and extensive list. Massey Ferguson Tractor Production in Minnesota In 2011, production of large (150-400 hp) Massey Ferguson and Challenger tractors shifted from France to a brand new American factory in Jackson, Minnesota. The goal to be in closer proximity and to better compete in the U.S. market against established competitors, specifically John Deere and Case I-H. Utilizing high efficiency initiatives, mixed model manufacturing and world-class technology, the Minnesota factory earned the coveted "Assembly Factory of the Year" title in 2017. Medium and compact sized tractors, meanwhile, continue to be built in France, as well as Italy and Brazil