Bobcat mini-ex hits 25

Bobcat celebrates 25 years of producing mini excavators

Bobcat celebrates 25 years of producing mini excavators

In 2012, Bobcat celebrates 25 years of success in the compact excavator market. From what began as an important diversification for Bobcat as the premier manufacturer of skid-steer loaders, the last 25 years have seen the company evolve to become one of the world’s leading compact excavator manufacturers and lay claim to being the global leader in compact construction equipment.

Scott Nelson, President for the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region at DICE, says:  “We are very proud of our achievements in the compact excavator market over the last 25 years. This is a tribute to the tremendous efforts and commitment of our salesforce and distribution network worldwide. Most importantly, we thank all our excavator customers, who have demonstrated confidence in our products and expressed their loyalty to the Bobcat brand.”

The story of the Bobcat compact excavator began in 1987 when the brand first appeared on machines sourced under an OEM agreement. Demand was so strong, particularly in Europe, that the decision was made to design and manufacture the company’s own line of excavator products. This led to the debut in October 1988 of the company’s first compact excavator product, built in collaboration with a Japanese manufacturer and introduced to European dealers at Da Balaia in Portugal.  In 1989, Bobcat began production of its own line of compact excavators at the company’s plant in Bismarck in North Dakota, USA.

Throughout the 1990s, successively larger models were added to the Bobcat-designed excavator product offering. In the Spring of 1998, the 5-tonne 337 and the 341 long arm variant were added to the line, with the 337 being exhibited for the first time at Bauma 1998.  This brought the range of Bobcat compact excavators to four core models: the 320, 325, 331 and 337 models.


Continued expansion

The company lost ground in the 1990s but at Samoter 2002, another significant development was marked with the addition of the 7.5 tonne 442 excavator.  Not only did the 442 represent an important expansion in terms of operating weight and digging depth; it was also the first Bobcat excavator product offering zero tail swing.

More recently, complementing the introduction of new products, came a determination to design and build products that meet the needs of customers in the local markets.Illustrating  the intensified focus of listening to the voice of the customer was the 1.4 tonne 319 compact excavator, introduced early in 2006, the first excavator product to be designed and built specifically to meet the needs of Bobcat customers in EMEA.

Local production

In 2001, Bobcat acquired Superstav s.r.o., at the time a manufacturer of compact loader backhoes based in Dobris in the Czech Republic. This acquisition was an important stepping stone to establishing a manufacturing capability in Europe for Bobcat compact excavators, compact loaders and attachments.  At first, there was only manufacture of selected high volume attachments such as buckets and backhoes.  In 2004, however, manufacture of the line of loader backhoes was discontinued, freeing up capacity to produce compact equipment.

At Bauma 2010, the Bobcat E45 and E50 zero tail swing compact excavators were introduced.  In 2011, based on a platform similar to that of the E50 zero tail swing model, Bobcat launched the E55 compact excavator with a conventional upper structure.

Also introduced was the new 2.6 tonne zero tail swing E26 compact excavator, completing the new E-generation of machines.  Replacing the 425, 428 and 430 models, the E26 offers all the advantages of the E Series: high reliability, exceptional operator comfort, smooth and precise workgroup operation and superior hydraulic performance.

Twenty-five years on, the Bobcat compact excavator range sets the standard worldwide for performance, quality, reliability and durability.  The range currently comprises 13 different models of compact excavators with operating weights from 1-8 tonne, including both conventional and zero tail swing designs.

Tom Raes, Business Unit director for Compact Excavators, tells CMME that with Intermat 2012 coming up, Bobcat is preparing to launch more updates to the range – including a special limited edition of the machine. With the event still many months away he is unable to go into specifics, but he suggests that the market is moving towards ever greater operator comfort and greener technology.

“I think there are big changes coming to the mini-excavator market. The last few years have made people very concerned about cost,” he says. “Machines have to be cost-competitive  but still do the job. There’s also more emphasis on operator comfort. We have to find a balance.”

Raes says that a legacy of the downturn has been the growth of the rental segment and the company of over the last 25 years has got better a targeting the dealer channel. He adds that the channel has become a proven route to get feedback on development.

“Dealer rental is crucial,” he says. “We have always worked hard to support the channel but now we’re working on value solutions and are focusing on the Bobcat range of attachments.”

“Dealer rental is crucial,” he says. “We have always worked hard to support the channel but now we’re working on value solutions and are focusing on the Bobcat range of attachments.”

With the strongest markets being the UK, Germany, France and Italy. Despite their growing presence, the market is still relatively low in the Middle East.

“The development of the compact excavator market in the Middle East has a completely different timeline to those in Europe and the USA. Initially, because cheap manpower was so plentiful, the MX concept was much less well accepted.

“In addition, up until four or five years ago, most small excavations were done using backhoe loaders, but with the boom in building and infrastucture development in the region, the compact excavator concept has become much more appropriate and the market has expanded significantly in the last four-five years, where the excavators have become very popular for work on roads, in tight places and in landscaping.”


Most Popular

To Top