An Arkansas agricultural partnership has filed a proposed class action lawsuit against CNH Industrial America, LLC over its allegedly “rushed” development and sale of fundamentally flawed Module Express combined cotton picker-balers. Filed in Wisconsin’s Eastern District, the 33-page complaint charges that CNH Industrial knowingly sold to cotton farmers nationwide equipment that simply does not work as promised, and for which trade-ins yield only a fraction of what a machine initially cost.
The defendant marketed and sold its combined picker products—the Module Express 625 and 635 pickers—as cost-effective, reliable machines capable of both harvesting cotton and forming it into modules in one piece of equipment, the lawsuit says. Since such machines were once considered revolutionary to the cotton industry, CNH and John Deere, its primary rival, the complaint says, locked horns when they separately began developing the technology in the late 1990s.
According to the case, CNH, in an effort to gain a leg up on its primary competitor, engaged in a campaign that relied on “wholly untrue” representations to convince farmers to trade-in “reliable, functional” picking equipment in exchange for “enormously expensive” Module Express machines riddled with inherent power, hydraulic, module packing, and software system problems. In fact, the complaint points to the urgency felt by CNH to keep up with John Deere as a contributing factor to the rush behind releasing less-than-perfect machines onto the market. From the suit:
“The potential gains for beating Deere to market with the new type picker were enormous and, upon information and belief, CNH rushed the design and manufacture of its picker to market in order to beat Deere. CNH did this despite knowing of the inherent problems in its new picker’s design and manufacture, which would soon become apparent to farmers which trusted and relied on CNH’s representations.”
Among the alleged misrepresentations disseminated by CNH about its Module Express pickers were that the machines harvest effectively on wet and dry ground, can maximize farmers’ return on investment, produce “consistent domed modules,” and require less daily maintenance than traditional basket pickers. The plaintiff alleges that contrary to CNH’s statements, the combined picker-baler products “fail and break down in the field quickly and often, need continual repairs, and are not reliable enough such that farmers can use them throughout a cotton harvest.”