John Deere is, in a word, preeminent here in the United States. The American Economic Liberties Project, a nonprofit antitrust organization, reports that the firm has control over 60% of farm combines and 53% of the country’s large tractor market. Although it isn’t the only game in town, it might be challenging to avoid. Farmers have been extremely concerned about the company’s refusal to let customers fix its products for just this reason.
The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and Deere and Company cosigned a a memorandum of understanding (MOU) over the weekend to facilitate open access to tools and maintenance information.
According to AFBF President Vincent Duvall, “This is an issue that has been a focus for us for several years and has required a lot of work to get to this position.” “And when you use equipment, problems with it are bound to arise at some point, as we all know. The ability to repair our equipment where we wanted to, or even on the farm, presented challenges for us.
David Gilmore, SVP of Deere, continues, “This arrangement underscores Deere’s long-standing commitment to ensuring that our customers have access to the diagnostic tools and knowledge they need to perform numerous repairs on their machines. In the next months and years, we look forward to collaborating with the American Farm Bureau and our clients to make sure farmers have the skills and resources they need to maintain and fix their equipment.
The MOU states:[Deere] should give electronic access to Manufacturer’s Tools, Specialty Tools, Software, and Documentation on Fair and Reasonable terms to any Farmer, including any staff or independent technician helping a Farmer at a Farmer’s request, and any Independent Repair Facility that assists Farmers.
The agreement comes in response to growing customer pressure to open repairability amid complaints that, among other things, devices appear to malfunction more frequently. Farmers had to go to authorized dealers for Deere repairs in the past. There are still certain restrictions in this. Deere will not “divulge trade secrets, proprietary or confidential information” or “enable owners or Independent Repair Facilities to circumvent safety features or emissions controls or to change Agricultural Equipment power levels,” among other things.
The announcement is a part of a growing movement to permit property owners to make their own repairs. As several states, including New York and Massachusetts, have approved their own right to repair laws, Apple, Samsung, and Google have all started their own at-home phone repair programs. There may even be a federal version on the horizon.
However, it appears likely that as Deere turns toward automation for future systems, consumer maintenance will become more challenging.