ASV celebrates 35 years since its first rubber-tracked vehicle
In 1983, Edgar Hetteen and Gary Lemke set out to develop a pick-up-sized rubber-tracked vehicle called the Track Truck.
Both Hetteen and Lemke were forerunners of the early snowmobile industry. Hetteen founded Polaris Industries followed by Arctic Cat. Lemke was owner of the largest Arctic Cat dealerships in North America.
Their creation, the Track Truck, featured ground pressure equal to less than a human on foot. It was designed as an ideal utility machine for use in adverse ground conditions, such as in northern Minnesota where Lemke and Hetteen lived. And through the development of the machine, ASV was formed.
A few years after creating the Track Truck, ASV tackled track loaders. In 1990, the company launched the first Posi-Track rubber track loader to meet the needs of construction, agricultural and landscaping industries.
The first Posi-Track, the MD-70, combined the power of a steel tracked dozer with the versatility of a loader-mounted quick-coupler and put it all on a rugged rubber track undercarriage.
Many MD-70s were built, including special versions for California vineyards and mine-removal units serving the military in the Middle East.
Starting with a closed design, ASV evolved its compact track loaders to include today’s open-rail and drive-sprocket undercarriage, which provides advanced traction on soft, wet, slippery, rough or hilly terrain.
To commemorate ASV’s 35-year history, the manufacturer held an open house event at its Grand Rapids, Minnesota facility in August.
More than 1,000 people attended the open house event, double the expected attendance. The occasion included a special anniversary-branded RT-120 Forestry Posi-Track compact track loader, factory tours and an opportunity to learn about ASV’s history.
“The anniversary is a testament to everyone involved with ASV, from those who created the first Posi-Track loader to those who are still involved with this unique product,” Rooke said. “It is a remarkable achievement for a relatively small company from Grand Rapids, Minnesota to create such a legacy. The future is bright for our customers and stakeholders.”
The company has expanded over the years, growing in size as well as in reputation for its machines with track-driven patented undercarriage technology.
In 1995, ASV moved from its original facility in Marcell, Minnesota to its current location in Grand Rapids. Like the company, ASV’s facilities continued to grow from there. In 1998, ASV entered into a partnership with Caterpillar, and continues to produce rubber track undercarriages for some of the Cat compact product line.
A decade after partnering with Cat, Terex Inc. purchased ASV from its original shareholders and started to sell ASV-designed compact track loaders under the Terex brand and soon added a line of ASV skid steers under the Terex product lineup.
The company became ASV LLC in 2014 following a joint venture with Manitex International and Terex, where Manitex owned 51 per cent of ASV. The following year, ASV LLC began marketing its own compact track loaders under the ASV brand.
In 2017, the public company ASV Holdings, Inc. was created when the company completed its initial public offering and began trading on NASDAQ under the symbol ASV.
Longtime employees say the passion for the equipment has remained strong through the 35 years. Cary Safe is one of those employees, who has been with the company since day one.
“It was such an exciting time because we were doing something that hadn’t been done before,” Safe said. “We were building machines we would want to operate, something we still do today.”
Safe has held a number of positions over the years, from assembly to sales to his current role in research and development. However, he still helps wherever he’s needed.
“Part of our success comes from how passionate everyone at ASV is about the equipment. Even on weekends or holidays it’s not uncommon to receive a text message from a coworker saying, ‘I have this great idea for a product or feature’,” Safe said. “We truly believe our machines are the best possible tools for our customers to do their work quickly and comfortably.”