John Deere has just celebrated the building of its two millionth tractor at Mannheim, the company’s largest production facility outside of North America.

It took 37 years to reach the one million mark and then a further 30 years to reach this latest milestone, a notable achievement given that the volume of tractor sales declined in its major markets over this latter period.

The story so far

Back in the early 1950s, John Deere was contemplating expansion abroad and after plans to build a factory in Scotland fell through, due to a change in British government policy, an approach by German banker with a near bankrupt company to sell, caught its interest.

The company was Lanz and after huge pre-war success when it enjoyed a 40% market share in Germany, it was now failing as tractor design moved on and the much loved Bulldog had become outdated.

Lanz Bulldog Mannheim
The Lanz Bulldog was a hugely successful tractor but was outdated by the 1950s

It was not an easy decision for Deere as it wrestled with the choice between buying an existing company or starting afresh with a greenfield site, and at first it decided against it.

However, a rethink in 1956 saw the deal go through and John Deere bought the company which included its factory at Mannheim.

Mannheim m2 millionth tractor Alldog
Snapped in a barn this Lanz Alldog was produced in Mannheim after the sale to John Deere

Also included was the stock of unsold tractors which were painted in the famous yellow and green livery and sold as John Deeres. This raises the interesting question – from just when was the tractor production count started?

Leaving aside such quibbles, the tractor that Deere has decided is the two millionth produced by the company at Mannheim is a 6R 250, and as a ‘thank you’ to the production team, it is wrapped in portrait photos of more than 300 employees.

Building on the heritage

The tractor was unveiled at the Mannheim plant in the presence of John Deere CEO John C. May. In the following weeks, the tractor will be on display at the John Deere Forum.

Eventually it will be given a place of honour in the factory museum next to its little brother, the one millionth tractor, a JD 6400.

Mannheim 6R tractor
All John Deere’s mid-range tractors are now built at Mannheim

Currently, there is an ongoing investment programme of more than $80 million which is used to update the plant and secure its location.

The money has been spent on environmental technology with energy use and emissions being greatly reduced. Waste, including water, is avoided and the noise level is much lower than in the previous plants.

In all, the plant now employs 3,300 staff and is now the biggest tractor manufacturing plant in Europe.