In its golden anniversary year, Bobcat has achieved yet another significant milestone by manufacturing the company’s 750,000th skid-steer loader 50 years after the Melroe and Keller brothers came together to introduce the Melroe self-propelled loader, the forerunner to the Bobcat® skid-steer loader.
Neil Woodfin, President, Bobcat EMEA, said: “It was only in February 2001, that Bobcat produced the company‘s 500,000th skid-steer loader, and it has taken just seven years more for Bobcat to produce another 250,000 skid-steer loaders. This is a testament to the popularity and demand for such a highly productive quality machine. The milestone was marked during a public celebration of the Bobcat 50th anniversary, attended by Yongmaan Park, chairman of Doosan Infracore, the parent company of Bobcat, and other Bobcat executives, as well as North Dakota Governor John Hoeven and members of the Melroe and Keller families.”
The Bobcat operation in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) has played a large part in this success. From 1963 to 1965, demand for Bobcat skid-steer loaders in the European marketplace 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, initially by Luff & Smith in Southampton in the UK, then by Beltrami in Ravenna, Italy, and later by Scheid Maschinenfabrik in Aumenau, Germany, before worldwide production was concentrated back in the USA in the mid-1970s.
There have been many milestones in the development of the Bobcat skid-steer loader since its first appearance in Europe in the early 1960s. 1970 was an important year, with the invention of the Bob-Tach quick change attachment system still in use today, which enables the loader to be transformed quickly and effortlessly into a multi-application machine. In the same year, Melroe Company, the forerunner to the Bobcat Company, introduced the M-970 ‘Big Bob’ loader, the first Bobcat loader with hydrostatic transmission. Designed to handle jobs too small for heavy equipment and too big for most compact machines, the M-970 set the pattern for the large frame Bobcat skid-steer loaders seen today.
In 1976, came the model 520 loader – the first of the ‘New Breed’ 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, amongst 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, the company 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 Europe 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.
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 European 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.