Ron Tanner used to drive combine harvesters through the streets of Melbourne as a young DEUTZ Australia tractor assembler in the early 1970s.
The popular DEUTZ product was shipped from Germany to Port Melbourne, and Ron drove them to Moorabbin at about 15 kilometres per hour, taking several hours.
Initially Ron, now 76, drove these harvesters alone, but authorities eventually required a pilot car to travel in front of the huge harvester.
“Everybody stayed out of your way,” recalls Ron, who retired in 2011 after 38 years with DEUTZ Australia. “You’re sitting up very high and you’ve got a huge body and you don’t travel very fast.”
When Ron joined DEUTZ Australia in 1973, he had recently arrived from India aged 26. The business sold agricultural machinery, including tractors and harvesters. “At one stage we were selling close to 1000 tractors a year,” he says.
Ron started as a tractor assembler, then joined the service and purchasing departments before becoming a regional sales manager and completing a Certificate of Mechanical Engineering.
He spent a total of 17 years managing branches in Perth, Singapore, and New Zealand, and became a General Manger in charge of eight Asian countries managed from Singapore.
Ron saw many changes over the years, namely the computerisation of engines and DEUTZ Australia’s evolution from selling agricultural equipment to engines.
The transition was sealed in 2001 when Land Power purchased the tractor division.
Tractors were in Ron’s blood, but he adjusted and became an important DEUTZ Australia manager. This included several years in New Zealand in the early 2000s.
“We used to bring in engines directly,” he says. “I grew the business there. A lot of people started using DEUTZ engines.”
Ron worked with many colleagues over the years and keeps in touch with some of them and some former dealers.
“It’s a great company to work for,” he says. “I learned a lot from the Germans. They’re great people to work for. They’re hard taskmasters but very fair.”
Ron and his wife Rona are now exploring Australia in a caravan, enjoying the sights such as the Bungle Bungles and the Devil’s Marbles.
“People completely forget that in our own backyard we have so much beauty,” Ron says.
Ron also enjoys photography, following Essendon in the AFL, shooting clay targets and wood turning. “I turned out the trophies for the gun club,” he says. I do it as a hobby and a gift to the club.”