Twenty years ago, on February 23, 2003, Helmut Claas signed an agreement to acquire a majority stake in Renault Agriculture, the tractor division of the Renault Group. Since then, CLAAS has gradually consolidated its position as a full line manufacturer on the international stage. Through continuous investments in efficiency- and productivity-boosting innovations the once-dated facility has been transformed
From CELTIS, ARES and ATLES to ARION and AXION
The majority acquisition in 2003 signalled a reshuffling of the cards in the global agricultural machinery sector. CLAAS graduated from a harvesting equipment specialist to a full line provider – adding standard and specialty tractors to its product range to seamlessly complement the flagship XERION tractor series built in Harsewinkel, Germany.
Less than a year from its acquisition, the tractors were transformed from Renault Orange to CLAAS Seed Green and work on a new large tractor range had begun. Three years later, the new AXION 800 series tractor was added to the CLAAS sales range. This marked the first step in the gradual replacement of the Le Mans product portfolio: over time, the CELTIS, ARES and ATLES were rebranded as the ARION and AXION tractor lines – product names which ushered in a new era.
Industry Defining innovations
The new ARION and AXION tractors paved the way for numerous award-winning innovations, which came to define the industry. The large, high-contrast CEBIS terminal for the AXION — and later for the ARION 500 and 600 series – simplified tractor operations. The PANORAMIC cab for the ARION 400 improved visibility. The AXION TERRA TRAC, which was the first half-track tractor with full suspension delivered better traction and a refined ride. TELEMATICS improved fleet management. CEMOS, the market-leading self-learning operator assistance and process optimization system for the ARION and AXION, simplified tractor operations. Meanwhile, CMATIC CVT transmissions refined power delivery.
CLAAS tractors from Le Mans received numerous recognitions over the years. In 2013, the DLG Test Centre benchmarked the 416 hp AXION 950 on behalf of the European farm machinery journal “profit” and measured a record-breaking pulling power of 242 kW – making it the world’s most powerful standard tractor! In the DLG PowerMix test, the tractor beat the average of all tractors tested before by a whopping 15.6% with a fuel consumption of just 249 g/kWh.
These and other successes can be attributed to a team of CLAAS developers whose primary aim is to build the most efficient and productive tractors for farmers and contractors throughout the world. Expertise in TERRA TRAC crawler tracks and CEMOS system and process intelligence at CLAAS Industrietechnik in Paderborn combined with electronics expertise from CLAAS E-SYSTEMS in Dissen and the standard tractor development capabilities in Vélizy, France. Together, they are developing the next generation of tractors from Le Mans.
More Than 84 Million Dollars Invested for High-Hech Production and State-Of-The-Art Test Center
Research and development is not the only focus of investment; CLAAS is also rolling out state-of-the-art production processes and ergonomic workstations. Modernization projects with an investment of more than 84 million dollars have been completed since 2003. The largest and most important of these was the CLAAS Forth initiative, which saw production elevated to a new level when it was launched at the end of 2020. The Le Mans factory is now considered one of the most up-to-date in the world, deploying driverless transport systems (known as autonomous guided vehicles or AGVs) and artificial intelligence (AI) in logistics. A new visitor center modelled on the Technoparc in Harsewinkel, Germany recently opened there as well.
200,000 Tractors From Le Mans Within Reach
The 150,000th CLAAS standard tractor left the Le Mans factory in the spring of 2019 and the 200,000 mark is expected to be reached in the 20th anniversary year. Today, CLAAS Tractor in Le Mans produces more than 60 different models from 75 to 445 hp, from simple tractors for markets with less stringent emissions standards such as Turkmenistan or Africa to the high-volume ARION 400 mainly for the European market and the AXION 900 TERRA TRAC high-tech large tractor for the global market. Today the Le Mans factory exports tractors to 80 countries around the world, including North America as of 2019.
Twenty Years of CLAAS Tractors From Le Mans at a Glance:
February 23, 2003: CLAAS signs agreement to purchase majority share of Renault Agriculture.
October 1, 2003: Roll-out of the first Seed Green CLAAS standard tractors from Le Mans.
2006: Launch of completely redeveloped AXION 800 series with HEXASHIFT semi-powershift transmission and CEBIS terminal.
2007: New ARION 500 and 600 series rejuvenate the Le Mans tractor range. The AXION 800 is now available with a CMATIC continuously variable transmission option.
2008: Acquisition of the Renault tractor division complete.
2008 – 2010: Installation of new cab pre-assembly and paint shop.
February 2011: Unveiling of the new AXION 900 large tractor series with CMOTION multifunction control lever at the SIMA in Paris.
2012: Launch of new ARION 500 and ARION 600 series.
2013: The AXION 950 sets a new pulling power record for standard tractors
November 2013: Premiere of the ARION 500/600 CMATIC with EQ200 continuously variable transmission from CLAAS Industrietechnik.
2014: Launch of the new ARION 400 series with ground-breaking PANORAMIC cab.
2016: CLAAS joins forces with the trade journal traction to strip down a used AXION 920 to its individual parts to analyse the wearing patterns.
November 2017: Agritechnica silver medal for two innovations: the AXION 900 TERRA TRAC and CEMOS for Tractors, the first self-learning, dialogue-based operator assistance and process optimization system.
Spring 2019: The 150,000th tractor rolls off the production line in Le Mans.
From 2019: Modernization of the factory focusing on the main assembly line, logistics and production management as part of the CLAAS FORTH investment program. The “factory of the future” officially opens in May 2021.
2021: The AXION 960 CMATIC with CEMOS designated Sustainable Tractor of the Year.
September 2022: The new CENTRAL ACADEMY opens in Le Mans.