Yes, this is the year that Bobcat is making a song and dance about hitting the million machine landmark.
Bobcat claims credit, perhaps justifiably, for creating the compact plant industry with the development of the original three-wheeled Keller loader, the predecessor of the Bobcat skid-steer loader, in 1958.
By 2001, 500,000 of them had been made. By 2008 it was 750,000.
Martin Knoetgen, president of Doosan Construction Equipment EMEA, says: “One million loaders is a very important milestone for Bobcat, representing many things including more than 50 years of leadership, commitment and innovation at the head of the compact equipment industry, which is encapsulated in every Bobcat product sold today. Producing our one millionth loader is a tremendous achievement and sends a message to our customers and our competitors that Bobcat has been number one in the market for over 50 years and that we plan to stay there for the next 50 years and more.”
To celebrate the landmark, Bobcat is offering new Special Edition Millionth Loader machines, based around the company’s S650 skid-steer and T650 compact loader models, with special paint and decal schemes.
After purchasing the rights to the Keller Loader in 1958, Melroe Manufacturing Company, the forerunner to Bobcat Company, developed the design and in 1960 launched the M-400 model, which, with its four-wheel-drive, was the world’s first true skid-steer loader. In 1962, Melroe introduced the M-440, an improved version of the M-400. A Melroe employee suggested that the loader be called a ‘Bobcat’ in honour of the prairie animal which is ‘tough, quick and agile’ and thus the Bobcat brand was born.
Further improvements resulted in the launch of the M-444 in 1963 (pictured above) and, in the same year, the first M-444 skid-steer loaders arrived in Europe. From 1963 to 1965, demand for Bobcat skid-steer loaders was met by products imported from the USA. Beginning in 1965, first the M-444 and later the M-600 brought out in 1968, were produced under licence in Europe for local markets, before worldwide production was concentrated back in the USA in the mid-1970s.
In 1976, came the model 520 loader - the first of a new breed of designs that resulted a year later in the 30 Series with the introduction of the models 530 and 630. Along with this new series, which featured an entirely new machine design from earlier models, came important improvements in the cab, seat, engine compartment and armrest, among others.
The seat bar, an important new feature in operator comfort and safety, was introduced in 1981. A year later brought the introduction of the 40 Series loaders featuring fully hydrostatic drive. By 1990, the 50 Series generation of loaders was launched with the introduction of the 753 and 853 loaders, equipped with an innovative, state-of-the-art diagnostic and monitoring system known as the Bobcat Operation Sensing System or BOSS.
In 1992, Melroe began production of the 7753 vertical lift path loader, a departure from the traditional ‘radius’ path lift arm design that had been the mainstay of the Bobcat line from the beginning. Throughout the 1990s, sales of Bobcat skid-steer loaders in EMEA increased dramatically and, in 1999, Bobcat complemented the skid-steer loader line with the launch of the company’s first compact tracked loader, the model 864. This was followed in 2001, by the A220, the world’s first all-wheel steer loader.
In 1995 Ingersoll Rand took over the Melroe and its parent company Clark.
In 2004, the first Bobcat skid-steer loader to be manufactured in Europe for 30 years was marked by production of a 553 model at the former Superstav plant in Dobris, Czech Republic. Three years later, Bobcat opened a completely new EMEA Factory and Training Centre a kilometre away in Dobris and at the same time launched the S100, the first Bobcat skid-steer loader designed and manufactured in Europe.
In 2007 Ingersoll Rand sold Bobcat to Doosan of Korea. Over the last three or four years, Bobcat has launched a whole new generation of compact loaders from the latest S450 skid-steer loader to the largest T870 compact tracked loader.