comercial vehicle style

i´m looking quite a lot at comercial vehicles and one question i am asking myself is, what do we expect from those to look like. like if you think of the ideal vehicle in this area, what “style” would it have?
i noticed some companies are trying to “stylise” their stuff, especially since they are making a lot of use from new plastic technologies like smc and similar and can play with form.
maybe, like me, many will say that simplicity here is a keyfactor.
I see a big contrast especially in areas like farming, and the biggest in farming here in europe. you have old old buildings (old beautiful building too) but tractors that look sportscar oriented to differentiate themselve?!

an example

would like to hear your thoughts

Have you seen Gary Major’s work?

i have now, very interesting forms, awesome sketches. the simpliest are the most appealing ones to me here.

but do you mean with that, that you think he is doing what is best for this area?
i find it difficult to match the natural surroundings of a product like that with some styles. of course, it is the customers choice and they might be seeing the fast forward design language as symbolisation for the state of the art technology within the product, but just because now this industry can make this forms because of the easy to form plastics they use, doesn´t nessecarily mean this is the right way to go, or is it.
you see, i am not saying this is wrong, but asking what you think, is this what the customer wants?

like in the picture above, fake chrome light housing, realy?don´t see that as progress

I think the styling is meant to create a subtle perception on multiple levels. Since the commercial vehicle is a direct capital expense, the buyer would need to make sure the investment can perform over a period of time. Since we’re talking a 10 year cycle, I would imagine the form language needs to conform to the life of the vehicle. From marketing aspect, I would presume that the business wants to project a forward thinking, innovative statement to potential customers. For the employee, what better way to improve and or build morale than to use an efficient, right tool for the right job piece of equipment.

I think more than a “style” a product would have, building a good story around the proper context(s), allows the “style” to naturally emerge…unless you have those stubborn clients that say “make it look like a Ferrari!” Then your sh*t out of luck.

Thanks for the link to Gary’s work yo. With his experience at JCB he certainly has knowledge of the design-end of the “big yellow machine” business. Having 1o,ooo+ hours “in the seat” I have often wondered if I might not be able to translate it into a “seat” at Caterpillar. But I wonder how much “real” experience he has with his own designs (maybe I should contact him, huh?)

Besides being an Operating Engineer, I’ve spent a couple of years as an HDR (heavy duty repairman). I’d be more concerned with the ease of operation (ergonomics) and maintainability of these machines than their appearance. All the swoopy curves (not picking on Gary here) are pleasant to look at but since they are only attainable via molded plastics their field longevity is probably not too good; all the the stuff that I’ve worked on suffered from it (most operators of this equipment aren’t too concerned with bumping into things). The typical HDR is expected to keep his employer’s equipment running (often approaching a 90% duty cycle) with the tools s/he has on the truck, and that seldom, if ever, includes a drum of polyester resin and roll of fiberglass cloth, let alone the technical composites expertise to use it correctly.

That said, Caterpillar’s current “top line” M14 motorgrader is an excellent example of combining the two. Unfortunately, for purposes of this discussion, CAT is so protective of their product imagery that finding suitable examples from the net is almost impossible. This image was from a Bulgarian CAT dealer’s website. The operator controls of the M14 are an order of magnitude better than their prior model, and any other manufacturer’s, in my opinion.

And while

you have old old buildings (old beautiful building too) but tractors that look sportscar oriented to differentiate themselve?!

may be the casual impression to some, the “styling” on the M14 (and most likely the other machines) opens up lines-of-sight that make operation more efficient, less fatiguing, and ultimately safer for personnel on the ground.

The trend of all of this equipment is heading toward being essentially “driver-less”, controlled by GPS systems; gone will be the day of a virtual forest of wooden stakes driven into the ground with colored ribbons to indicate elevations.

CAT 160H - typical of all other makes, control (ten levers) must be reached for and manually “blended”.

CAT M14 - all controls accessible without moving the hands from 3-axis joystick hand controllers. As an aside, many of the old hands that I know, who operate “blades” (as they’re called), are so frustrated with learning these new controls that they are retiring from the business.

You should be asking the purchasers of these vehicles what style direction is “right” to represent their brands and industries. Not even sure you should be talking to the operators about the external style, but rather to the customers who will hire the construction companies or buy from farmers. I work for a premium tool manufacturer for professional craftsmen, they say they don’t care what their tools look like, but they want to be perceived as reliable professionals and their tools (along with workclothes, ladders, vans/trucks etc) help that. Similar to this case, I think those who will be hiring the construction company will look for someone who will get sh1t done on time, with no hassle or accidents. Fake chrome or swoopy lines does not exactly promote that.

That tractor you posted is hideous and completely “wrong” in my humble opinion. The only detail I would keep is the exhaust pipe. Without going into detail, i think that nostalgic 50s style tractors is “wrong” as well.

edit: I see Lmo posted while I was typing this, sorry if I’m repeating anything.

PDF link of the above 14M for those interested

from your experience, was this different with sheetmetal packaging, because of the lack of flexibility?

i totally agree with you, that in such a field is the ergonomic und use much more important to get them right in the first place. I am more asking about the styling details which are coming up. It is like some discovered that good design is helpful and some discovered that they now can play with the packaging and really do play with it.
Some fancy swoosh or a chrome lightshousing is probably more than questionable.
I think I would get sick of those working with it day for day.

@nurb thank you for the link

this is a machine that has generated a lot of discussion in the ag industry. I believe the styling was contracted to a design firm. I am an implement designer instead of a tractor designer. Attractive implement design is a way more subtle subject.

I don’t know if it’s correct to talk about farm equipment in the same breath as other off-road equipment, tractors have always had relatively fancifully-styled sheetmetal(often by big-name designers,) much moreso than construction equipment. One guess as to why would be because it is or was more likely for the person actually selecting and paying for a tractor to also be the day-to-day operator, my other might be that the farm environment(which I am familiar with)isn’t really as rough on things like fake chrome as something like a mine.

If you listen to farmers talk about tractors, it’s not much different than anyone else talking about their cars, branding is very important. International Harvester was bought out back in the 80s but for some reason that transcends the basic utilitarian needs of capital equipment the “IH” name lives on, grafted to another venerable name, and applied to tractors made by a conglomerate with several other brands just recently spun-off from the automotive giant Fiat.

Just for the sake of discussion, let’s establish these “headings”:
Construction Equipment (heavy earth-moving machinery, cranes, forklifts, loaders, etc.)
Agricultural Equipment (tractors, combines, harvesters, leveling machinery, etc.)
Over-the-Road tractors (semi-tractors (trucks), and trailers)

Dear posters,

Hi my name is Jan and i work for the company some people here refered as stylised and wrong plastic technologie use.

I read a lot of false and wrong asumptions here, soley on the fact that you saw a picture of a tractor with some chrome.
Some of the quotes here remind me of the deigns for elderly people → which looked ugly just because everabody back in the days thought elederly do not care about design - let me tell you “Farmers” do care about design as diverse as every other profession and social group.


The cover of the engine and the wheel arches of the posted Fendt Tractor are LFI Plastics.
We used LFI for several reasons.
We had to make very tight engine hood to abide european street regulations (line of sight) which affects ergonomics. This is not necesarry for all tractors over the world just if you want to drive it on the street.
LFI has a very long livetime and holds its 10+ year livespann. It is also very impact proof, nevertheless we are talking about farming here and the farmers try not to bump as often as some of you assumed.
LFI does not corode and keeps the color longer than the cheap painting on metal which tractors normally have.
LFI gives us more freedom to get around the internals and still be able to archieve a modern Design.

Metal on the other hand is cheaper and has a better heat conduction.

Design vs. Styling

The tractor you are talking about is a special eddition (black and more chrome) which sells very well here in europe.
Car head lights do have fake chrome … of course a proper glass housing would be preverable but this is not in budget for these type of machine and plastics covers will not sustain the heavy duty use.
The normal eddition is green and has less chrome. The “styling” has a origin in the old models and is a moderate evolution in the history of Fendt.
So you asume “we” just made it look cool which is of course only one side.
The proper story around fendt is there and probably not known outside of europe very well.

Ergonomics & Ease of use

We are constantly working on Ergonomics & Ease of use and every Design decision takes this into acount.
You can have a look at the interior on the website. To explain every detail would take to forever but just to give an idea whats posible look at the reverase driver postion which is unique.

I’ll stiop now but i hope i could free you mind …
kind regards Jan

Hi Jan,

thank you so much for showing us your side of the process and giving us the opportunity to understand the decisions to led to this product.
I hope you and your company haven´t been offended. As you said, whithout knowing the background we can just make assumptions and those are very subjective and influenced by ones taste but often can´t grasp what different aspects may have made this the right choice.

Many, at least me, know that the use of plastic itself is not wrong, and i´m not doubting the pros of the material in this situation. I just wondered if some looks, which are now easier to accomplish with plastics like the hagie example recently posted really have the solid background that your are telling us.

and as you said, your product is selling very well, is a big proof for the design.

LFI, is this long fiber injection? what kind of plastic is this?
Regarding the chrome, are you saying that it was chosen because of the evolution of the design?

We had the point that construction equipment is almost never bought by the user, so they don´t get to decide.
With agricultural equipment, especially in europe, is it the case that the buyer is also the user(small farms mostly)??

What are the points that your customer is looking for mostly? Ergonomics, Power, Fit in current situation, Style?

Myself and for sure some others too would be very interested to hear some more first hand information coming from an “insider”

thank you again

The beauty of these boards… thanks for posting that Jan! I hope you’ll follow the discussion for a while.

THat reversible cabin is incredible! I’ve never seen one of those before!

Definitely, people need to keep Europe v. America in mind. It’s sometimes easy to toss both into the same basket, but the markets are very different.

One important thing has hasn’t been mentioned is that EU farmers are obscenely subsidized, and there’s only so much horsepower you want for a given job, so they can afford a certain level of “bling.”

American farmers aren’t subsidized?

Welcome indeed Jan.

My comments about the “maintenance problems” of plastic and composite material shrouding were based on my personal experience as a mechanic. But, it is probably less important in the “agricultural” implement industry. Many agricultural machines are purchased by an individual farmer. They represent a sizable investment, that if taken care of, will last many years. So they are operated and well taken care of. That all heavy equipment represents a sizable investment is not in question, but the operators of most construction equipment do not own it themselves; they are hired hands. And while there are many skilled operating engineers that treat what they operate as their own, pride themselves in doing a job well, doing it quickly, and saving the owner money (which includes not damaging his equipment) there are those who “drive it like a rental car”. From the point of view of what “plastic” allows to be manufactured can not be surpassed economically. But accidents do to happen in the field and repairs generally must be effected in the field. To that end, “plastics” are a problem. It is hard to beat a torch and arc welder when you have a “lunch-time break” to get a machine back on line. But it isn’t a reason not to use any and all materials available.

The reversible operator station makes much more sense than the cheaper configuration of having one set of controls (i.e., the hoe) with a revolving seat and another set of controls (i.e., the skip-loader) found on other manufacturers products. As a backhoe operator I can absolutely understand the thinking behind the feature; a backhoe operator has to spin around about every five to ten minutes when trenching to lift the out-riggers and move the tractor forward … a complete pain in the rear.

And as an operator who has spent hundreds of hours in the seat of a CAT scraper, seated facing forward, while looking over my right shoulder, with one hand on the wheel, and the other hand on four control levers, I can understand the value of the reversible station, but what is not so clear to me is “how” this feature applies to an ag-tractor? i.e., On a scraper, as with your tractors, the operator is primarily facing forward with an eye turned to the attachment to monitor depth of cut, amount of burden, etc.

Your product line appears to be primarily agricultural, but you do offer a “front loader” attachment, and your “Municipal” tractor. Is it’s Fendt’s intent to enter the “construction” industry perhaps? Is the “front loader” tool able to be attached to the rear of the machine as well offering a better task-view when used as a loader? Other implements that attach to the rear of the machine (back hoe, forklift mast, etc.) might open up a market for “rough-terrain” products, along the line of JCB’s.

JCB tools

You are building some very interesting equip Jan. Looks like fun!
Fendt TriSix

Lmo ill get back to you in the evening when I am at home.

just a quick answer, when you turn the seat you will probably have a powerfull tool atached at the back and you will drive the tractor backwards all the time. Hence our gearbox is “liquid” and continuous (Fendt Patent) you have nearly the same poweroutput backwards and all the good stuff the back of the tractor offers.

When you move forwards and have a tool atached at the back (turning your head all the time like you mentioned) you can turn the driver seat with the Controls 20 degree to have a more comfortable position.

as said I’ll get back to you.
see you

Yes, but Europe is on a totally different level. Depends on what you farm, of course. Here in Canada it’s the dairy farmers who have Fendts.