Versatile expands into toyland

Scale models will include tractors, dealer truck, trailer

Winnipeg tractor maker Versatile has expanded its product line into the smallest of small-scale equipment.

The company on Thursday announced a new line of scale-model toys developed by Tokyo toy manufacturer Tomy and Iowa-based Ertl, which already makes licensed die-cast scale models of John Deere, Case IH and New Holland farm equipment.

Come April, the company said, scale models will be available at Versatile dealers, including an "introductory edition" 1/32-scale Versatile 550, as well as a 1/32-scale and 1/64-scale Versatile 500, a 1/64-scale Versatile towed on a scale flatbed trailer behind a scale Versatile-branded semi, and a 1/64-scale Versatile dealer Ford pickup truck.

Since Winnipeg’s Buhler Industries revived the Versatile brand name for tractors in 2008, customers and dealers have been asking for toy tractors, the company’s marketing director Adam Reid said in a release.

"It’s taken some time to find the right partner and we are extremely excited to launch the new line of four-wheel drive toys," he said.

The company, he added, is "working on more products for the Versatile customers and fans that share our enthusiasm for the brand."

Now the only Canadian manufacturer of farm tractors, Versatile has brand presence dating back to Toronto in 1947, when it was used on augers, field sprayers and harrow drawbars. The company later moved to Winnipeg and entered the then-fledgling four-wheel-drive tractor market in 1966.

Versatile was bought out by Vancouver’s Cornat Industries in 1977, then again in 1987 by Ford’s tractor division, which merged the operation with its Sperry New Holland acquisition, into Ford New Holland.

The Versatile brand all but disappeared beneath the Ford logo on the new tractor lines, then again under the New Holland logo when Fiat bought Ford New Holland in 1993. It became larger beneath the Buhler logo when Case IH and New Holland merged into CNH in 2000 and sold the Versatile tractor division to Buhler to meet federal antitrust requirements.

After Russian combine maker Rostselmash bought a majority stake in Buhler in 2007, the company in 2008 relaunched its entire tractor line under the Versatile brand alone, replacing the Buhler Versatile and Genesis brands on its tractors worldwide.

The company last summer also introduced Russian-built combines in North America under the Versatile brand name.

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