According to a joint statement from both organizations, the alliance will be based at and supported through Vermeer’s corporate and manufacturing operations in Pella. Lely’s current U.S. distribution centers in Wilson, N.C. and Temple, Texas will close later this year following the move.

According to Lely officials, the move will enable them to consolidate and streamline their operations and allow them to increase their focus on other agricultural equipment areas.

The alliance agreement calls for Vermeer personnel to handle marketing, sales, customer service, logistics and parts support for Lely Hay & Forage Products (including Splendimo Mowers, Lotus Tedders and Hibiscus Rakes)

Initially, all Lely Hay & Forage Products will be marketed under the Lely brand and colors. Lely will continue to manage the manufacturing, engineering and new product development functions for U. S. and other worldwide markets through their offices and production facilities based in The Netherlands.

“This alliance allows us to take advantage of the tremendous resources Vermeer offers through their US distribution and servicing network,” said Lely USA president Peter Langebeeke. “Providing quality products and customer support has always been of paramount importance to Lely. In recent years, this has been very challenging for us and has caused us to re-think the way we do things.

“And, since we had already cultivated a very strong working relationship with Vermeer in years past – Lely has provided modular cutterbars for Vermeer Gator Mowers since 1989 – we were at a good, comfortable starting point in our discussions.”

Strategically, the move also enables Lely to sharpen its focus and accelerate development for one of Lely’s core products, the Astronaut robotic milking system. With well over 1,800 units in use worldwide, Lely is considered the undisputed market leader in such systems. The company has been actively developing the U. S. marketplace since 2001.

According to Langebeeke, Lely will also continue to remain active in the turf market. Lely Fertilizer Broadcast Spreaders will be sold and serviced by Lely USA personnel from the Vermeer offices in Pella, Vermeer will handle manufacturing responsibilities. Expected timing for this change is late 2003, following transfer of equipment and materials.

“This new alliance marks the beginning of a unique and exciting venture,” said Vermeer President Mary Andringa. “It’s a great combination and it offers some tremendous opportunities for both Lely and Vermeer.

“There are a lot of similarities here. Both of our companies are family-owned; in fact, both were founded in the same year (1948). And, each has a rich tradition of innovation and specialization in the hay and forage industry. By combining our strengths, we plan to accelerate product innovation, enhance customer support and more effectively control costs,” she added.

The new manufacturing/marketing alliance is Vermeer’s second one in recent years. In December 2001, Vermeer and McCormick Tractors announced a similar arrangement, also based out of Pella.

“There’s a lot of synergy, but I think the real winners in this new alliance will be our customers,” said Langebeeke. “Vermeer is a world-class organization under strong leadership. They have extensive manufacturing capabilities, a wealth of experience in agriculture and the resources to make things happen. They are state-of-the-art in product and parts support, and, based on what I’ve seen and experienced, they’re excellent in customer service.”

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com