Most of the world's leading construction machinery and ancillary equipment manufacturers were among 1,350 exhibitors at Intermat 2000 international construction equipment show at the Paris Nord centre just outside the French capital in May.
Intermat is now on a three yearly cycle with Europe's major Bauma exhibition in Munich, to be held next year and the US Conexpo in Las Vegas in 2002.
The next Intermat will be staged in 2003.
Plant shows are always rife with rumours, mostly about company mergers and acquisitions and Intermat was no exception. There has been a spate of recent takeovers, including Caterpillar's buyout of Italian road construction products maker Bitelli and the Fiatowned New Holland's takeover of American giant JI Case and the construction equipment division of German firm Orenstein & Koppel. Some observers believe there are more to come.
But one company which is often the subject of such rumours and has again reinforced its 'not for sale' sign is the UK's and one of Europe's profitable and successful construction and agricultural equipment makers, JCB.
'Let me make it absolutely clear, JCB is not for sale, ' said JCB chairman and managing director Sir Anthony Bamford, who believes global alliances may be right for others but definitely not the correct strategy for JCB.
A profit of ú91.2M ($136M) profit last year on sales of ú833M has strengthened that resolve and JCB now manufactures its equipment in three continents, opening a US$62M (ú41M) factory in Savannah, Georgia at the beginning of this year manufacturing backhoes. JCB also took a controlling interest in its Indian backhoe business Escorts, which accounts for 80% of the Indian market.
And despite the continuing weak Euro, JCB invested a record ú70M in the UK last year with two new manufacturing facilities and a world parts centre, all based in Staffordshire. The new factories will add to the number of machines made and contribute to the company's improving position in the global manufacturing league table.
JCB has declared its intention to rise from its current claimed fifth position to become the world's second largest manufacturer behind leader Caterpillar in unit terms within five years.
Comparing sales turnover of manufacturers is a more realistic measure of a company's position. And on that basis JCB, with its ú833M group turnover is still a long way behind Caterpillar's near $20,000M (ú13,300M).
Liebherr maintained its major presence at European shows, using Intermat to gauge response to a prototype telescoping boom materials handler. France is Europe's biggest telehandler market and Liebherr believed this was an ideal opportunity to assess if the company should go into full-scale production with the machine, which has a 4t lifting capacity and 13m hoisting height.
The German Wirtgen Group, now incorporating Vogele pavers and Hamm rollers and stabilisers offers the widest range of cold milling machines with cutting widths from 350mm up to 2.2m in a single pass. Wirtgen has added a variety of narrow width, but deep milling drums for the W600DC. These could prove useful to utilities contractors as they can mill and excavate trenches down to a depth of 450mm in a single operation, replacing saw cutting followed by digging out with excavators.
Supporting JCB's intention of moving up the league table, the company introduced seven new machines at Intermat. These included two new Loadall telescoping boom forklifts with lift heights of 9.5m and 16.8m and a pair of tracked excavators, the 6t midi size JCB8060 and the JZ70 with zero tail swing, which allows the counterweight to swing round and stay within the width of the machine. JCB also used Intermat to show a concept tracked version of its smallest JCB 1CX backhoe loader and also used the venue to re-enter the articulated dumptruck market with two 4x4 models, the 13t capacity JCB 714 and larger 16.5t JCB 718.
Sweden's Svedala Dynapac is set to compete with Wirtgen, using Intermat for the world premiere of its PL 2000S planer, the first model in a new generation of cold milling machines. The high capacity planer, displayed alongside the company's new asphalt pavers and vibratory rollers, has a cutting width of 2.01m and cutting depth of 320mm.