Vanderfield name disappears after 51 years as RDO Equipment steps up

Its official – the Vanderfield and Chesterfield names are gone – replaced by a new name that owners’ the RDO Australia Group prefer moving forward

Things move quickly in high income seasons as individuals realise just how wonderful they really are in bringing in big dollars for their company and that’s the time to make some historic changes on their watch – such as killing off a name that’s been around for 51 years

Signwriters have made a fortune since US owned RDO Australia Group brought out the controlling interest of Vanderfield in November 2019, a leading John Deere dealer based in Northern New South Wales since 1970.

RDO Equipment went on to purchase 11 Chesterfield branches from across NSW and QLD and placed them under the Vanderfield banner in October 2020, and that effectively ended the customer relationship with Chesterfield that had lasted 57 years.

Signwriters licked their lips with that one and didn’t even realise at the time there was more to come.

The new owners have now decided there isn’t going to be much lost by killing off the Vanderfield brand, and instead start off with a whole new good feeling of optimism attached to the RDO Equipment name. With obviously no research into what the word equipment conveys to local farmers.

We await with great anticipation for the movie length promotional video to follow, as has been the directive of the PR departments of Case IH and John Deere when they realised orders were 18 months ahead and local growers were making them rich.

See those respective videos here: Case IH promo, John Deere promo.

Those riches in many instances have been made by supplying cheaper to manufacture Tier 3 engine technology. Banned in all developed countries except Australia due to the cancer causing particulate matter emitted from Tier 3 engines. While all other developed countries run cancer free clean emission engines because their federal laws make them do so.

Whether the loss of the Vanderfield name will have an impact on current customers now expected to remain loyal to a name unknown to them, will be a wait and see result but after all Chesterfields disappeared without a mere wimp.

So its best not to underestimate the ability of RDO Equipment management to make the new trading name work, after-all they are working in a market satisfied with third world engine technology and no groundswell from operators prepared to dice with their health every time they turn on their Tier 3 engine.

Three dealership groups will be united under the RDO Equipment trading name, owned by RDO Australia Group.

Vermeer Australia and Vanderfield will be integrated into RDO Equipment, a name used originally for the take-over of the John Deere Construction and Forestry Equipment division in all states except Western Australia in May 2019.

RDO Equipment will kick off with 29 branches and over 800 staff selling John Deere and Vermeer agriculture, construction, and forestry equipment models.

Apart from the full range of John Deere agricultural machinery, it is expected that select branches will start selling Backhoes, motor graders, wheel loaders and the full forestry line, including log loaders, forwarders, harvesters, feller bunchers and grapple skidders.

With several new product lines to come, including articulated dump trucks, dozers, excavators and skid steers.

Pictured at the time of the Chesterfield takeover is Damien Effeney, CEO of Chesterfield Australia and Julie Whitcombe CEO of RDO Australia Group

CEO of RDO Equipment, Phil Canning who assumed responsibilities on 1 November had this to say, “We have a tremendously dedicated team, many with decades of experience, who have a deep understanding of our customers and the machines that are critical to their operations.

“While we are changing the brand, our customers will continue to be looked after by the sales and service teams they already know and trust, and they can expect the same level of expert support and advice that they have always received from our united team.”

Ryan Offutt, Chairman of the RDO Equipment Board, says this is an exciting new chapter for RDO Equipment in Australia.

“Our business is built on values and a commitment to the success of our stakeholders, our customers, employees, manufacturing partners and the communities where we do business. When we had the opportunity to invest alongside Bruce and his family 10 years ago, it was clear we shared this same approach to long-term success.

“I want to recognise the legacy of the Vanderfield organisation as an important foundation stone for our future and express my family’s gratitude to the customer and employees who have given us the opportunity to invest in Australia. The strengths and qualities of Vanderfield will be continued as we focus on the future.”

The US based owner of the RDO Australia Group traces back to Ron Offutt who has a long history of admiring the John Deere badge. Since 1968 in fact, when as a 26 year old in Moorhead Minnesota USA he began operating John Deere equipment rented from the local dealership nearby.

Later that same year, Ron went on to purchase that local dealership and grew it into a company with more than 75 stores in nine states, selling and supporting agriculture, construction, environmental, irrigation, positioning, and surveying equipment from leading manufacturers including John Deere, Vermeer, and Topcon.

50 years later, RDO Equipment Co. manages more than 100 locations worldwide with partnerships in Africa, Australia, Mexico, Russia, and Ukraine, making it the largest John Deere dealership in the world.

Australian owned John Deere dealerships are becoming a rare beast as US owned RDO Equipment now controls 29 yards in New south wales and Queensland while Canadian equipment supplier Cervus Equipment, the subject of a recent takeover by fellow Canadian company Brandt Tractor, part of Brandt Industries runs ten dealership yards across Victoria. See the Cervus Equipment background story here.

Meanwhile, South African owned AFGRI in Western Australia controls John Deere sales in that state with 19 retail yards. See AFGRI background story here.

Pictured at the time of taking over the remaining interest of Vanderfield is RD Offutt Co. CEO Tim Curoe, former Vanderfield CEO Bruce Vandersee, RDO Australia Group CEO Julie Whitcombe, RD Offutt Co. executive vice president Ryan Offutt and RD Offutt Co. founder Ron Offutt

Farewell to Vanderfield

Gordon Vandersee founded the company in 1963, then known as Farm Equipment Pty Ltd to design and manufacture front-end loaders called Dynathrust, and to sell Chamberlain tractors, made in Australia. In 1970, Vanderfield became a dedicated John Deere dealership and was instrumental in bringing cotton pickers into Australia.

Vanderfield sold the complete range of John Deere agricultural machinery including lawn and garden equipment and since 1996 the company’s headquarters location in Toowoomba Qld was acknowledged as one of the largest individual John Deere dealerships in Australia.

Vanderfield also sold equipment from other badges including Manitou rough terrain materials handling equipment, Honey Bee draper platforms, among others. In 1993, Vanderfield also added the Hino range of light, medium and heavy trucks including hybrid electric/diesel models. The success of this partnership led to Vanderfield being named Hino’s Dealer of the Year several times.

Vanderfield at different stages, had John Deere dealerships in Toowoomba, Gatton, Chinchilla, Roma and St George in Queensland as well as in Darwin in the Northern Territory and in Kununurra in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

The company’s Hino franchise and a number of other key agriculture and truck franchises were located in Lismore NSW, Darwin NT, and Toowoomba Qld. During 2013, Vanderfield celebrated 50 years of serving the farming industry.

Following Gordon’s retirement in 1991, the business was handed on to his sons. Bruce became the Managing Director of the company, Rob became the company’s special projects manager, while John took over as the IT manager.

Leading US based family company, RDO Australia Group, trading as RDO Equipment Co created a partnership with Vanderfield as 50% shareholders from 1 November 2012. By that time Vanderfield had already made a name for itself with a focus on customer service and support and for being one of the largest agricultural machinery and truck dealerships in its region.

Even when RDO Australia Group brought out the controlling interest of Vanderfield in November 2019, the original name was expected to continue on, but by December 2021 the Vanderfield trading name was to be no more.

Who could argue with new management that had the benefit of two of the biggest consecutive seasons of farm income ever recorded in Australia and a buying spree by farmers that was never previously witnessed at such high levels of farm machinery spending. Killing off two iconic names, Vanderfield and Chesterfield was an easy decision, and would give the new management team the credit they deserved for record sales levels.

Under a unique name for the business and the industry, RDO Equipment.