Over the past few years, competition between small engine manufacturers has become fierce, with companies offering rental stores a variety of incentive programs, rebates and more in an effort to gain market share.
The war doesn’t stop with rental stores. Some engine companies also have used a variety of creative marketing tools to convince original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to use their engines on different machines and promote that fact at industry events such as The Rental Show.
Honda Engines, Alpharetta, Ga., says it has long been considered the leading small engine manufacturer, producing engines for its own branded machines as well as Honda Engines-powered equipment for other OEMs.
“We are the world’s largest engine manufacturer and we have 10,000 dealers backing up our products,” says Michael Rickey, senior manager, Honda Engines.
“All of our experience in automobiles and motorcycles culminates in our general purpose engines. Some say our engines are over-engineered, but that means they are reliable, start easily and produce to their full life. We see others trying to use whatever marketing they can to get their foot in the door, but Honda sells itself,” he says.
However, Briggs & Stratton, Milwaukee; Kohler Engines, Kohler, Wis.; and Subaru Industrial Power Products, Lake Zurich, Ill., are attempting to make further inroads in the rental industry.
The result has been an interesting mix of opportunities for rental store owners and managers. For example, David Gill, president, Rentals Unlimited/Grand Rental Station, Traverse City, Mich., says he was able to save enough money through show specials and engine rebates last year to more than pay for his trip to The Rental Show 2013 in Las Vegas.
Rentals Unlimited had previously signed up as a Vanguard Insider Program (VIP) member with Briggs & Stratton. As a result, the company had received a 6.5-hp Vanguard engine and used it to repower a log splitter.
“This was an innovative program from Briggs & Stratton and it was a team effort,” Gill says. “We documented how we handled the repower and gave them feedback through the Internet.”
In the end, Rentals Unlimited earned enough VIP badges from Briggs & Stratton to qualify for rebates on up to five machines purchased with Vanguard Engines at The Rental Show 2013 in Las Vegas.
Kohler Engines has created a similar program, offering the Kohler Rental Partner Program to entice rental stores to try its small engines. As part of the program, Kohler gives a rental store some Kohler engines to try. The promotion also gives a rental store discounts on parts and engines, allows it to stock only what it needs, and authorizes the rental store to perform warranty repairs on its own equipment and Kohler will pay for the warranty repairs.
“We want to partner with rental stores and help them be more successful,” says Scott Lee, product manager, Kohler Engines. “This is a free program. We do not expect anything from them. We understand that equipment down time equals lost revenue and we pride ourselves on quality and service. When they try out our engines, we want them to understand the reliability and durability of our products and see that there is another option for engines that is just as good if not better than what they have used before.”
For a number of years, Subaru Industrial Power Products has offered a $25 instant cash rebate program for anyone who purchases Subaru-powered equipment at The Rental Show.
“This serves two purposes. First it helps support our OEMs by driving show orders, but also gives an incentive for those rental centers that have never tried Subaru to give us a try. Our experience has been that once they try Subaru, they love it and are loyal to the brand in future purchases,” says Brad Murphy, vice president and chief operating officer, Subaru Industrial Power Products.
“Our marketing approach to the rental industry is basic, yet comprehensive. We know rental and we’ve spent a lot of time studying the challenges rental centers face. As more rental centers are hanging on to equipment for a longer period of time and the amount of equipment secured through rental continues to spike, we know the biggest concern rental centers face is durability. They need low-maintenance products from a brand that inspires confidence. They want to know the products they buy will stand up for a long time. That’s why we work hard to offer our customers the best value and overall lowest total cost of ownership,” Murphy says.
Murphy says Subaru engine features, such as fuel shut-off systems, carburetor drains and dual element air cleaners are designed to make engine service easier. In addition, the company now offers a five-year warranty on most of Subaru engines and a three-year warranty on the rest.
“We want rental centers to know that they can count on Subaru. We were the first to offer the three-year warranty and are the first and only one to up that offer to five years. We offer five years because we know our engines are built to last. Our warranty claims are less than one tenth of one percent,” Murphy says.