What exactly are Kubota gray market tractors? They are units designed and manufactured strictly for the Japanese domestic market. These gray market tractors made it into the United States through unauthorized channels, not through Kubota.
In 1997, the import of such units into the U.S. was banned. The U.S. International Trade Commission issued a General Exclusion Order that was upheld by the Federal Court of Appeals in Washington D.C.
Disadvantages of Gray Market Kubota Tractors
Kubota, like other tractor manufacturers, has a dealer and distribution network specific to the United States. This network of Kuboat Dealers is how Kubota maintains oversight over sales, parts and repairs. This approach simultaneously protects Kubota’s brand and the value of Kubota equipment owned by farmers, property maintenance companies, lawn mowing businesses, road departments and others.
For liability and other reasons, Kubota does not support gray market tractors in the United States. Consider the following problems with Kubota gray market tractors.
How’s Your Japanese?
The safety decals, serial plating and owner’s manual are in Japanese. If you doubt that these vehicles were only intended for the Japanese market, the absence of key information in English should be persuasive.
Different Safety Standards
Since 1985, Kubota tractors for the U.S. market have included rollover protective structures (ROPS), which limit overturns to 90 degrees. Together with a seat belt, Kubota ROPS on tractors creates an operator safety zone. These parts are often missing from tractors intended only for the Japanese domestic market since those units were primarily used in rice paddies where rollovers simply don’t occur.
PTO driveline shields are also typically absent on gray market Kubota tractors. Rototillers were often permanently attached to the rice paddy tractors in the factory, reducing the need for the shield.
Lack of Service and Support
Kubota and its authorized dealer network do not provide parts, service or warranty support for these gray market tractors. This is understandable because Kubota does not want to incur liability by supporting a product not manufactured to U.S. safety standards and with important information in Japanese, not English.
As stated on Kubota’s website, “There is no responsibility whatsoever either by Kubota or its authorized dealers for these ‘gray market’ units.” Those with gray market tractors face the challenge of locating gray market parts themselves.
Tires for Rice Paddies
Anyone with a Kubota gray market tractor faces extra costs when the time comes to replace the tires. That’s because the original tires featured a taller tread that provided needed traction in Japan’s rice paddies. However, to accommodate the extra tread, and to keep outer tire dimensions within spec, Kubota reduced the size of the wheels. Therefore, when it is time to replace the tires, owners of gray market Kubota tractors must typically purchase entire tire/wheel assemblies.
A power take-off (PTO) makes it possible for an implement to get energy from the engine. The PTO on a gray market Kubota B6000 does not turn clockwise like those on Kubota tractors manufactured for the American market. That means that you must install a special PTO reverser in order to use implements with the tractor.
With gray market tractors comes uncertainty, and uncertainty can mean stress. Also, complications with the ownership of a gray market tractor can waste your time, something you probably have too little of as it is. When you stick with Kubota tractors manufactured for the U.S. market, you have easy access to the parts and service you’ll need to protect your investment.
The content on this site reflects my own opinions and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of my employer or Kubota Tractor Corporation.