Metrosexual Machinations

Noticed those gorgeous new season colours in clunky metal earth movers? Business Acumen wriggled into the overalls, yanked on the blunnies, sat down at smoko and asked why.

By Susan Brown

A proliferation of lightly coloured heavy machinery is becoming more visible as weathered, King Gee wearing sub-contractors opt for pretty and petite this season.

Lime greens, candy pinks, vibrant vermillions, care free jacaranda, sunset orange, sky blues and glowing russet reds are the new decade's must have accessory for fast growth area – urban construction sites.

An upward spike in sales of the excavators, diggers, mini scoops and tiny trucks over the last six to eight years could be either the boom in the construction industry, or it could be the funky new colours that started creeping in about the same time. Sellers aren't sure, but they “can't keep up with the sales” according to Daniel Tabone, General Manager of AllJap Machinery in Rocklea.

Is it the feminisation of the industry? Perhaps we are looking at flights of fancy uncovered in new metrosexual machinery operators or even some clever focus group inspired marketing plan for those cute as a button colours. “I think people just got tired of the old green and yellow ones” said Mr Tabone.

Getting down and dirty on a construction site may be de rigeur, but the new urban earth moving contractors want to be seen as well as heard.

Choosing colours more Barbie than blokey meant the machines would stand out on a site which was better for business. “At first people though oh that's strange - but they attract attention on job sites. It is eye catching - people see your sign. Not everybody likes the colours but they accept it ”.

According to Mr Tabone, the job site of the future is “more and more urban these days.” Now inner city purpose built the machines have low emissions, low noise, low fuel consumption “and zero swings which means there is no bum hanging out the back of the machine any more like the old ones.”

And the new designs and colours work. Subbies are voting with their blunnies, durries and hard, hard hats as they tramp into display yards, squinting at purples and pinks before their gnarled hands scratch on the dotted line for those $20k to $80k sales contracts.

It wasn't always this way. We remember back to the days of Tonka truck yellow, made famous by Caterpillar still using that light absorbing matt mustard yellow.

C'mon guys, evolve. There is yellow in the new market, but it is a joyous buttercup cleverly used by other manufacturers. How could an impulse buyer with a song in his heart resist?

Sumitomo and Komatsu have flung caution to the wind, the only limits being the pigments in the paint shop. Scoop, Muck, Dizzy and Bob the Builder eat your heart out.

For those shifting a little in their seats with this edgy, out there look there are some some bastions. The army still firmly require camouflage colours according to one paint operator. Hitachi too, are wedded to their blood orange signature brand.

Having found fashion, will heavy machinery evolve? Will those wheel tracks be trundling to catwalk rather than Caterpillar?

Will we venture from plains to patterns or plaids next season as we continue to ram the boundaries of the soft side of heavy metal?

Not with streetwise Hitachi who are into gritty rather than gimmicky. “Our products are basically orange and that's it” says Gavin Smith, sales manager of Hitachi in Brisbane. “We don't sell on our colours. We sell on performance.”