My Elec-Traks - Acquisition

I've compiled a real brief history of the G.E. Elec-Trak Garden Tractor here from the bits and pieces I've learned over the years. Over the years I've been able to contact many of the almost 300 employees who worked for G.E. on the project as well as former dealers and original owners.

We would really welcome any additions anyone can make to the story, especially those who were there and helped design, manufacture and sell these tractors. Please me if you have information, documents and pictures to add to this history. Your memories are more important than you think!

Chapter Three: 1973-1975 Shutting down operations...

The end of the Elec-Trak did not come over night. For the most part the project had made it's goals through 1972 but with the close of the spring season of 1973 it was apparent that things had changed. There was no year to year growth and other financial indicators were also showing significant issues. Accounts receivables were double what they projected to be. The original business plan had a fatal flaw in it. They had never figured in the fact that dealers had tractors on consignment and they had thousands of dollars of receivables sitting on show room floors all over the country. The dealer channel numbers were less than half the original projection. Market share was also off initial projections and G.E. had captured less than half of what they had aggressively projected. G.E. had managed to capture 4% of the market which in retrospect was not bad for a brand new company with a brand new technology.

1973 had seen the Arab oil embargo arrive which at first you would think would be a plus for an electric tractor but overall it had caused a major recession starting that year and all tractor manufacturers had disappointing sales. Compounding the issues was a G.E. union strike in early 1973 just when the factory needed to mass produce units to fill dealer showrooms for the spring season. This was one of the largest strikes G.E. had ever encountered and factory employees honored the picket line. Salaried staff was required to perform regular duties 4 hours per day and build tractors 6 hours per day. This resulted in unresolved design, manufacturing and quality issues and caused inferior product to be produced by untrained personnel. The result was numerous field service problems that eroded dealer confidence and spread negative advertising to would-be buyers.

In the summer of 1973, G.E. sent in Dr. Vanderslice, a hard-line troubleshooter to review the situation and make recommendations. It is apparent the decision was made to sell off the division as they had already spoken to Simplicity but they were experiencing the same receivables issues as well as a drop in sales. Plans were made to talk to other potential buyers. Additional moves were made to "stop the bleeding". These moves caused the market to predict G.E.'s withdrawal from the market and added more to the problems.

In the spring of 1974 talks began with Wheel Horse and on August 9th, 1974 the deal was done. Wheel Horse ran the operation in Scotia for only a year and then closed the operation. Wheel Horse and the private brand for New Idea eventually ended all production of the Elec-Trak models. Wheel Horse came out with a new model, the A-60 (1975-1977) and two others, the E-81 and the E-141 (1980-1983). Eventually they got out of the parts business and what was left was sold to a dealer, Bill Gunn from Ederton, Wisconsin. Bill later sold his stock to Jim Coate of the Electric Tractor Store.

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