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Zen-Noh "gray Market" Tractors....the Back Story!

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#1 Moosetales OFFLINE  


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Posted September 12, 2013 - 11:53 PM

I've been around the GT barn enough now to have stumbled across many a discussion about "Gray Market" tractors and have read a fair amount about the pros and cons. If you want to start a heated debate just start a thread about parts availability for a "Gray Market" tractor or start a thread that asks how to determine the difference between an "genuine" or a "Gray Market" tractor.


Well, I'm heading out tomorrow to take a look at what I have determined is a genuine "Gray Market" tractor and ahead of taking a test drive I thought I'd do a little digging.






In my search I stumbled across this article that provided me with a more objective look at the debate than I have ever read before. Many of you may have already read it but I thought I'd share it for those that haven't. Can I tell you with 100% certainty that the article below is more objective than not? Nope, but it provided a heck of a lot more info than the typical "debate" I hear in and around the "water cooler" these days. Enjoy.


ZEN-NOH & Kubota

Here is an article that attempts to clear some confusion surrounding ZEN-NOH tractors. Anyone familiar with direct import Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) Kubota tractors is familiar with the name ZEN-NOH, or sometimes written as Zennoh or Zen-Noh. Exact semantics aside, many have seen the name adorn the side panels and hoods of what look like normal Kubota tractors. Before we get into a lesson on ZEN-NOH, I’ll tell you what ZEN-NOH is not – it is not a tractor brand name!


What is ZEN-NOH?

ZEN-NOH is an agricultural cooperative in Japan founded in 1948. It is a government owned and controlled organization that through their strength in numbers is able to buy large quantities of agricultural supply at a discount. There are many cooperatives that operate in Japan, but ZEN-NOH is the largest in Japan’s National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations. Actually, not just Japan, but the entire world. The largest agricultural cooperative anywhere, is ZEN-NOH.


ZEN-NOH is a means for millions of Japanese of farmers to grow and market their products and have access to basic supplies for running a farm. This is evident from the name of the co-op – the translation of ZEN-NOH is “all farmers”. The size of the cooperative means that vast supply quantities are available at lower pricing due to massive purchasing volume. ZEN-NOH makes sure fertilizers are available, oil, fuel, parts, equipment and so the individual farmer does not have to concern themselves with sourcing these.


How big is this Cooperative?

Pretty big. 2006 numbers peg annual turnover at about $56 billion USD. The cooperative has about 4.5 million farmer members and employees about 12,500 in the organization overhead.


They consistently maintain the number 1 spot in the Global 300 – a ranking of the world’s largest cooperative organizations. Everything from agricultural coops, retail, wholesale, insurance, electric power, banking and credit union cooperatives are listed in this index.


Interestingly, Japanese insurance cooperative Zenkyoren occupies the number 2 spot on the index which is actually ZEN-NOH’s insurance division. Combined, ZEN-NOH and their insurance division, generate a little more than $100 billion USD in revenue every year.


ZEN-NOH and its insurance division, Zenkyoren, occupy the number 1 and 2 spots in the top 25 cooperatives in the world.


Where does Kubota Fit In?

Well, when you are the number 1 agricultural cooperative in the world, Kubota will make tractors just for you and stick your name on them.


Since ZEN-NOH is the largest agricultural coop in Japan, it has tractors, rice combines, wrapping machines and many other products – not just equipment, produced for them under their ZEN-NOH brand name by some of the largest companies in Japan – Kubota included. It is not unlike your local grocer having its own brand of cereal, salad dressings or pasta sauce – it had another company manufacture those items to its specifications.


Kubota has manufactured literally thousands of tractors for ZEN-NOH over the years and labeled them right on the assembly line with the ZEN-NOH name plate. Often a Z prefix was added to the existing Kubota model number identifier making an L1501 into a ZL1501 tractor. Once built, the tractor was mated to a matching Kubota tiller and shipped directly to The Procurement Division of ZEN-NOH for their disposition.


A Kubota ZL1801 manufactured for the ZEN-NOH agricultural cooperative.




Established in 1890, Kubota has had a long history of producing farming machinery in Japan. Kubota sailed across the Pacific in 1969 and found a ready market in the US for its new product line that included never before seen compact tractors. Needless to say, the 21HP L200 was an overnight sensation and Kubota Japan got busy incorporating in the US in order to meet the demand for their hot little orange tractors. Domestically in 1974, Kubota followed up the success of the L200 with the B6000DT – at 12HP it was the first compact 4 wheel drive tractor ever made.


How did I end up with a ZEN-NOH Tractor?

At this point you might be wondering – “very interesting, but how did my ZEN-NOH tractor get from the cooperative all the way across the ocean to my shed in Tecumseh Kansas?”. Yes, this is an important piece of the puzzle. We have called this first article ZEN-NOH and Kubota: A Partnership because that is how these two organizations started out – one producing equipment for the other.


The procedure for loading gray market Kubota, Iseki and Yanmar tractors into shipping containers.




Thousands of containers like these made their way from Japan to Canada, the United States, Australia, Europe and beyond, flooding local domestic markets with low-cost alternatives to the new tractors at dealerships.


In ZEN-NOH and Kubota Part 1 we learned that ZEN-NOH (or Zennoh as it is sometimes written), is not a tractor brand. It is the name of the largest agricultural cooperative in the world and in the past, they have partnered with Kubota to have equipment built for them. In this article we begin to explore how these tractors made their way across the ocean and what consequences it had for those involved and, for Kubota.


2 Reasons for ZEN-NOH Labeling

You may be asking yourself that if ZEN-NOH is not a tractor brand, make or model, then why does it say that on the sides of the hood of your tractor? You may even notice a plastic name plate firmly attached to the grille area that says ZEN-NOH. How is this possible?


zennoh 2.jpg


Your tractor says ZEN-NOH on the sides of the hood for one of two reasons:


  1. Built for ZEN-NOH by Kubota
    Kubota built hundreds of thousands of every conceivable model of their tractor line-up for immediate local delivery to ZEN-NOH. Some of, but not all, the tractors that ZEN-NOH took delivery of were affixed with their name. Kubota installed hood decals and ZEN-NOH branding right on their own assembly line during final stage roll out.

It is not known whether Kubota relabeled their own product under the terms of a contract with ZEN-NOH, or if the cooperative itself was looking to garner some goodwill and advertising of their own once these re-branded tractors were deployed.


One thing is certain, ZEN-NOH was, and still is, buying tractors in very high volume from Kubota and as such, gets a nice volume purchase discount. The rock bottom pricing allows ZEN-NOH to lease or sell the tractor to the farmer or producer at a very affordable price. Everyone wins all the way around.


These ZEN-NOH branded Kubotas are original ZEN-NOH which differ from their counterparts as you will read below.

  1. Exporter Relabeled
    The second reason why you may have ZEN-NOH branding on your Kubota is that your equipment was intentionally relabeled at the time of export by a 3rd party. Why would someone go to the trouble of relabeling perfectly fine Kubota equipment at the shipping docks on Japan’s eastern coast? Money of course, but the story is a little more complicated than that.


Japan’s Equipment Renewal Policy

Before we get into the details of how ZEN-NOH and gray market tractors landed in the United States, a quick lesson on Japan’s equipment renewal policy is in order. Every single year thousands of used right-hand drive cars, Kei trucks, mini-trucks, motorcycles, forklifts, mini track hoes, engines, generators, and so on, are exported in massive volume from Japan to other countries.


The Japanese government offers huge incentives for its citizens to continually buy new and they impose massive taxes, penalties and red tape for anyone wanting to hang onto their old car, tractor or mini-truck. This process keeps orders flowing to local manufacturers for their durable goods and ensures a strong domestic economy. It is less expensive to purchase or lease a new Kubota tractor for use on your small farm in Japan, than it is to keep and maintain the used one.


What Japanese equipment owners are left with is a very strong incentive to abandon older equipment. This older equipment has to go somewhere. Kubota and ZEN-NOH labeled Kubota tractors must leave Japan, as absolutely no domestic market exists for these small compact tractors in the country of origin. Regardless of the number of hours showing on the hour meter or the name plate on the side of the hood, all older equipment, cars, trucks, generators and what have you, must leave.


Early Days of Importing Kubota Tractors

Some saw this massive build-up of supply in Japan of used agricultural equipment as an opportunity. And why not – a container holding 16-18 used Japanese tractors could be purchased, shipped across the ocean and unloaded for the same price as 3 or 4 new tractors. Profitability was guaranteed – an endless supply and a hungry American market.


Early in the 1990s, ground zero for importing used Kubota tractors into North America was 1197 Bacon Way, Lafayette, California 94549. Home of Mike Wallace and Wallace International Trading incorporated in 1984. Kubota did not know it yet, but this tiny operation on the west coast would grab its attention in due time. Keep in mind that at this point, there were no gray market tractors. Kubota had not yet detected and banned the practice.


Wallace was brilliant and recognized very early that a huge untapped market existed in the United States for a good quality, low hour, used compact diesel tractor – especially one that said Kubota on the side of the hood! He sought out and sourced a group of willing Japanese based exporters that would be capable of gathering, cleaning, disassembling, containerizing and shipping the many boxes of tractors he would need to satisfy the demand.


The new business partners in the supply chain included Eisho World Ltd., Nitto Trading Corporation, Sanko Industries Co., Ltd., Sonica Trading, Inc., Suma Sangyo, Toyo Service Co., Ltd., all headquartered in Japan and all cooperating with Wallace International to export these surplus tractors.


A Distribution Network Emerges

Now that Wallace had an agreement to supply used tractors nailed down, finding used equipment dealers wanting to add to their sales and bottom line was not difficult at all. Although selling off shore used compact tractors was unheard of until that point they all bought in agreeing to take several units each as part of an initial order agreement and securing their sales territories.


The initial distribution network for Wallace’s imported Kubota tractors included:

  • Bay Implement Company of Monticello, Arkansas
  • Casteel Farm Implement Co. of Pine Bluff, Arkansas
  • Casteel World Group, Inc.
  • Gamut Trading Co., Gamut Imports
  • Lost Creek Tractor Sales
  • MGA Inc. Auctioneers
  • The Tractor Shop
  • The Tractor Company


Wallace would handle all the logistics of product selection, shipping, importation, customs clearance, duty and fees as well as offers to buy that were presented via fax to his distribution network of resellers. Within days of landing on US soil the imported units were disbursed to the distribution network. Wallace never actually held inventory – rather tractors were pre-sold to the distributors. Orders were placed with the exporter in Japan only after Wallace had the container load sold locally in the United States.


A Taste of Success

Wallace International Trading now had a supply chain and a method of distribution. The orders were placed, tractors gathered, cleaned, dismantled, packed for shipping, the containers were loaded and at the mid-way point on the voyage, the money changed hands – as is customary.


The first containers each loaded with 16-18 tractors and rototillers hit the water in the Pacific destined for a shipping port on California’s coast. Interestingly, it was not just Kubota tractors on that first boat ride out of Japan. Sharing those containers were other compact diesel tractors made by Mitsubishi, Yanmar, Iseki, Hinomoto, Suzue, and Shibaura.


Things were looking good for Wallace – he had a steady stream of tractors arriving by the container load into his distribution network state-side. He had pioneered the concept of importing inexpensive but high quality compact tractors out of Japan. He was the first one.


Kubota Takes Notice: A Giant Awakens

It did not take very long after the first container loads of Wallace’s imported tractors that intel started to make its way back to Kubota corporate. Early buyers of these imported Kubota’s were now showing up at the parts departments of their local dealer looking for parts for models that the US parts men had never heard of. L1501, B5001, L2201? What?


By 1996 the phones and faxes at Kubota head office started ringing off the hooks as more and more franchised dealers found themselves competing for sales with these off shore Kubota cousins. Sales were brisk! Low hour, like-new Kubota tractors priced thousands less than a new North American model down the street started a ground swell of anger amongst the equity brick and mortar Kubota dealers. The bad blood between imported Kubotas and built-for-America equipment had begun.


Kubota USA knew that their franchisees would revolt, stop paying royalties and probably launch a class action lawsuit against them for allowing this to happen in the first place. Kubota responded to these unauthorized importations by launching a 337 Suit, or in layman’s terms, a classic trademark infringement case.


Wallace, his dealers and his supply chain would be seeing a lot of oak – the inside of a court room!


Up Next, Smashing the “Cartel”

The stage was set for Kubota’s landmark legal case against Wallace International Trading. In our next installment of this series we explore how Kubota flexed its legal muscle to break up the importation of what it called, for the first time, illegal importation of gray market units into the United States.


We continue our series that explains why there are so many orange tractors labeled as ZEN-NOH to be found in the United States and places outside of Japan.


We last left off where Wallace International Trading had established a supplier network for the importation of used compact Kubotas from Japan. Wallace brought in container loads of compact tractors and disbursed them among his distribution network. The idea caught on and demand was up – these used units were low-hour, high quality and in some cases less than half the price of new Kubota equipment!


The sudden arrival of competitive units from Japan attracted the attention of local brick and motor Kubota dealerships who found themselves in a tough spot to compete. In 1996 they banded together and pushed Kubota corporate to act… and act they did with three legal mechanisms:

  1. a trademark infringement case
  2. a general exclusion order by the United States International Trade Commission
  3. a cease and desist order


Trademark Infringement

This case was known as Kubota Tractor Corp V. Wallace International Trading and was a landmark legal case. Kubota claimed that as owners of the trademarks, namely the KUBOTA block letter stylized design font, the stylized letter K, and their classic Gear and Pipe logo had their intellectual property rights infringed upon.


Some of Kubota's trademarks. (top) The classic gear and pipe logo used for many years (middle) the stylized K (bottom) their new logo.




Kubota asserted that they had not consented to the use of the trademark blazoned across the hoods of all those used imported tractors, and furthermore, these imported tractors were materially different that the models sold by their authorized dealers in the US.


General Exclusion Order

Kubota and Wallace argued back and forth on the merits of the trademarks, but by February 1997 Kubota handily won the infringement case. On the heels of that victory they asked for and were granted a General Exclusion Order by the United States International Trade Commission (UCITC). There is a lot of legalese in the commission’s order but the portion that would eventually lead to the blockade of further importation of the kind Wallace International was performing would be in this excerpt:


The commission had excluded any Kubota-manufactured tractors, under 50 PTO horsepower, from ever entering the United States without Kubota’s express permission or under license agreement. This big hammer legal move would not only prevent Wallace International Trading from importing any used Kubota tractors with their trademark name on it, but any future entity from ever importing a Kubota trademark branded tractor.


The United States Customs and Border Services were notified and advised that if a shipping manifest contained the words USED KUBOTA TRACTORS anywhere on the documents the shipment was blacklisted and quarantined. Shipments held in this manner by Border Services would either be turned around at the port or seized and destroyed.


Cease and Desist Order

Kubota’s legal team was not through with Mike Wallace. They asked for and received a Cease and Desist Order against Wallace and his loose knit band of dealers preventing them from selling any unsold Kubota trademark-branded tractors still in their inventories. The distributors in Wallace’s network were not allowed to sell the equipment they had imported and had sitting on their lots! Under the terms of the cease and desist order these tractors had to be either destroyed, exported, dismantled for parts or sold as scrap metal.


It was a three-pack of legal resolve that included a trademark infringement case and subsequent general exclusion and cease and desist orders. Kubota’s legal team had effectively put the brakes on Wallace International Trading and their days of importing used Kubota tractors. Or so they thought.


A Loophole is Found

Some will say nothing ruins a friendship faster than dragging everyone into a court room! 10 days in legal hell put the strain on the once profitable and successful Wallace/Gamut business relationship, splitting them up at least for a while. You will remember Gamut Trading as one of the original distributors in the distribution network Wallace organized.


Returning to Apple Valley California, the then directors of Gamut had to comply with a section of the cease and desist order by listing and indicating any unsold Kubota tractors still in their yard. It can be speculated that at this time they took renewed interest in a few orange tractors bearing the ZEN-NOH name on the sides of the hoods instead of the usual Kubota trademark name.


They had seen that ZEN-NOH name plenty of times before as they had taken delivery of many ZEN-NOH labeled Yanmar and Kubota tractors in the past. Noticing this detail would take on a life of its own.


The ZEN-NOH name was not part of the trademark infringement suit Kubota had brought and won against them. ZEN-NOH trademark name was not mentioned in either the general expulsion or cease and desist orders! Gamut Trading had stumbled upon a loop hole in Kubota’s trademark infringement suit – they could not distribute Kubota equipment but, ZEN-NOH tractors were fair game! If they could continue to get their hands on ZEN-NOH equipment maybe it would be business as usual…

Up Next, Back in Business!

Up next we look at how Gamut Trading, one of the original distributors of imported Kubota equipment, discovered and used a legal loophole to revive its importation business with… interesting results.


We last left off with Gamut Trading heading back to Apple Valley California in an effort to comply with the cease and desist order as a result of losing a trademark infringement case brought by Kubota. Part of the cease and desist order’s conditions were that existing Kubota equipment on the lots of the distribution network had to be 1) exported out of the country 2) parted out or 3) sold for scrap metal.


It was about this time, pondering these three alternatives for the equipment they had paid for, that Gamut realized that the trademark case only covered the Kubota name, not ZEN-NOH that they had seen all over the hoods and grille of ZEN-NOH branded Kubotas they had imported. This made them realize that they might be able to import and distribute ZEN-NOH equipment instead! A loophole around the court orders!


Back in Business

What a break! Ronald DePue and his brother Darrel were Chairman of the Board and CFO of Gamut Trading at the time. They performed a check at the United States Trademark Office and found that the trademark ZEN-NOH was available. The name was previously registered and owned in the United States by ZEN-NOH of Japan themselves. In 1988 in a weird twist of fate, ZEN-NOH failed to renew the trademark name leaving it available for adoption by Gamut Trading!


In March 1997 less than three weeks after Kubota’s legal dropped the hammer on them, Gamut Trading bought the ZEN-NOH trademark and name. They became the new owners of the brand for $245. They indicated on their trademark application that they were users of the ZEN-NOH trademark since 1986, long before they had probably even seen a ZEN-NOH tractor.


In a legal move that now sounds strangely familiar – Gamut Trading also registered the name ZEN-NOH with United States Customs and Border Security to prevent any other entity from importing a used tractor from Japan bearing their trademark, ZEN-NOH. Kubota’s lawyers had schooled them in court and they were obviously paying attention to the lessons!


Even as Gamut was proceeding with an appeal against the USITC general exclusion order they had become the registered legal owners of the ZEN-NOH trademark. This would allow them to import all the ZEN-NOH branded tractors they could get their hands on, regardless of whether they were made by Yanmar or Kubota. Plus, as the new owner of the trademark, they could for a fee, sell a licensing agreement to future tractor importers or resellers wanting in on this still emerging market. Brilliant!


Kubota Strikes Back – Again

It is not known whether Gamut Trading actually instructed their export suppliers to remove the offending Kubota hood decals, but, as the new owners of the ZEN-NOH trademark and name brand, Gamut resumed importing used Kubota Tractors almost immediately after being served with the original cease and desist.


Between February 1997 and October 1998 Gamut continued to import used Kubota tractors. On 56 different shipments the tractors were identified as ZEN-NOH L and B Series Tractors on the customs declarations paperwork. The Border Services could not turn them away because there was no violation here – ZEN-NOH tractors were free to enter the United States.


When these ZEN-NOH tractors finally cleared customs, Gamut knew that their resellers would not want a no-name unheard of tractor brand. Gamut routinely advertised their tractors as Kubota/Zennoh tractors, stressing that the tractors are the same thing. They went as far as to supply new Kubota hood decals including instructions on how and where to install them!

Little did brothers Ron and Darrel of Gamut know, but, Kubota coporate was already onto their operation. Kubota hired private investigators posing as prospective tractor resellers, recording phone conversations and obtaining wire taps. The end was near.


Sued Into the Stone Age

When the dust settled on round two of the legal battle, Gamut was fined in excess of $2.3 million USD and found in violation of the original cease and desist order placed upon them by the USITC in February 1997. Kubota was seeking a penalty in the $6.9 million range, but since the directors of Gamut had willingly destroyed so many boxes of files and records pertaining to the importation of these tractors, the deciding Judge could only base the penalty amount on the information the investigators could find.


Up Next, Fallout

After the lawsuits flew where did the chips fall? What did these players do afterward and what are they doing today? What impact did importing these tractors have?


Last we left off, Gamut Trading had registered the ZEN-NOH trademark as their own and began importing tractors from Japan into the United States. While technically not against the court orders it was against the spirit of the court’s decision. Kubota brought another lawsuit against them in fall of 1998 and won a judgment in excess of $2.3 million US. Importing gray market ZEN-NOH or Kubota tractors into the United States was dead.


What Happened to Mike Wallace?

After going round 1 with Kubota and losing, Mike Wallace went looking for redder pastures. He continued to import used compact diesel tractors from Japan, dropping Kubota and importing mostly Yanmar tractors. In September 2002, he reacquainted himself with his old buddies at Gamut Trading. Since they had now been sued into the stone age by Kubota’s legal department, they did not have much need for the ZEN-NOH name anymore.


Wallace asked if he could become an authorized user of Gamut’s trademark. In 2003, Gamut Trading and Wallace became business partners once again, this time in the ownership of the ZEN-NOH trademark, name, stylized print and logo!


Yanmar Strikes

Wallace did not have a lot of time left to savor that trademark co-ownership. By mid 2003, plans were already floating around the boardroom table at the Yanmar Motor Corporation in Japan, to form a new US subsidiary, the Yanmar Diesel America Corporation. The purpose of this new venture was to reestablish the Yanmar brand in North America. This would mean new franchisees, new parts dealers, new generator and engine sales and a complete relaunch of the entire Yanmar compact tractor line-up. Yanmar had actually departed the market about 2 decades earlier.


Yanmar had a little unfinished business to tidy up before offering franchises for sale in the United States. In August of 2004, Yanmar brought a Consent Order, Judgment and Permanent Injunction in the US District Court for the Eastern Division of California against, Mike Wallace and Wallace International Trading, barring him from ever importing, selling, and marketing, being involved in or around a Yanmar tractor, a ZEN-NOH Yanmar or any other type of Japanese tractor! We have a copy of that injunction for your legal reading pleasure.


Yanmars lawyers did all their homework as well! Since so much case law now existed regarding trademark infringement on Japanese imported tractors, a history of hood labels being changed, calling a tractor a ZEN-NOH model, falsifying importation documents etc., that Yanmar had no trouble making Mike Wallace go quietly into the night, forever.


What Happened to Ron and Darrel?

After going round 2 with Kubota and being subject to large fines, Gamut Trading went out of the tractor importation business.


It is not known where Darrel landed after the dust up with Kubota, but his brother Ron DePue had owned operated and closed down, Homestead Tractor and Feed and may have had to sell or close it as payment to settle with Kubota. Ron is currently owner of Just Tractor Parts located in Apple Valley California. He is listed as the authorized distributor for Hercules Aftermarket ROPS (which coincidentally has models available for both Kubota, ZEN-NOH and Yanmar tractors!)


What Happened to the ZEN-NOH trademark?

The ZEN-NOH trademark, as registered in the United States, lapsed on February 14th 2009. Gamut Trading decided not to renew for obvious reasons. What this means is that someone else could grab that trademark and technically own that brand (and perhaps own the wrath of Kubota and Yanmar that comes along with it!).



Now that all the pieces of the puzzle are available, a timeline summarizes the events nicely:

  • 1948
    ZEN-NOH agricultural cooperative is founded in Japan. Later grows to be the largest cooperative in the world with revenue in excess of $100 billion USD per year.
  • Late 1970s
    Kubota partners with ZEN-NOH to start producing ZEN-NOH branded equipment on its own assembly line.
  • Early 1980s
    ZEN-NOH registers its trademark in the United States.
  • 1984
    Mike Wallace incorporates Wallace International Trading Co. in California.
  • 1988
    ZEN-NOH’s trademark in the United States expires and is left unowned.
  • Early 1990s
    Wallace International Trading begins importing Kubotas from Japan by the container load.
  • 1996
    Kubota dealerships start to notice cheaper, low hour Kubota equipment on competitive lots. Phones start to ring at Kubota corporate head office in Torrence California. Kubota files legal paperwork against Wallace International Trading.
  • February 1997
    Kubota wins trademark infringement case against Wallace International Trading and secures both general exclusion orders and cease and desist orders against Wallace and his distribution network.
  • February 1997
    Distributors in Wallace’s distribution network are told by the judge to export, dismantle, part-out or destroy their remaining inventory. Kubota lawyers cackle with glee. Muahahahhaaaa.
  • March 1997
    Gamut Trading, one of Wallace’s distributors, discovers that the ZEN-NOH trademark is available in the United States, applies for and receives the trademark rights.
  • 1997-1998
    Gamut Trading imports hundreds and hundreds of additional ZEN-NOH equipment from Japan into the United States. Rebranding of Kubota equipment to ZEN-NOH equipment “on the dock” is speculated.
  • October 1998
    Kubota files legal paperwork against Gamut Trading.
  • November 1998
    Kubota wins lawsuit against Gamut Trading for violating the terms of the original cease and desist order. Fines are levied at more than $2.3 million. Gray market tractor importation into the United States halts entirely.
  • 2002
    Mike Wallace partners again with Gamut Trading to use their ZEN-NOH trademark to bring Yanmar equipment under that name into the United States.
  • 2004
    Yanmar Company files legal paperwork and wins an injunction against Wallace International Trading, barring him from basically ever importing, selling, parting-out, looking at or sitting on a Yanmar again. Wallace is essentially sued into the stone age.
  • February 2009
    ZEN-NOH trademark quietly expires after Gamut Trading, now defunct, neglects to rewnew it.
  • April 2009
    OrangeTractorTalks publishes a complete history of how so many gray market tractors found their way out of Japan, and how Kubota used their legal might to smash the flood of inexpensive equipment arriving daily. Probably raising a few eyebrows at Kubota corporate in the process – luckily we’re not on their payroll!


The fallout from importing these tractors is still felt today. You can see evidence of it anytime you speak to certain dealerships or Kubota corporate alike. There is a general hostility toward those owners of gray market equipment and those that repair, service or provide parts for. It stems from these series of events – importing thousands and thousands of Kubotas from Japan, flooding the domestic market with high quality, low hour, less expensive models.


Can you blame Kubota for feeling a bit frustrated though? They came to North America and their L200 was an instant success! Things were looking up and they were going about their usual business for 20 years. Then, a few creative individuals got together and changed the game. It was not in Kubota’s plans to be competing with itself. This problem is something that Kubota continues to struggle with today and has served as an important lesson to other equipment manufacturers.


Mike Wallace, having been sued once by Kubota and another time by Yanmar, is definitely not high on either company’s list of respected community members. That being said, he pioneered the idea of importing surplus compact tractors from Japan into the United States. He saw an opportunity, gathered suppliers and created a distributor network. Many others have followed his recipe but he was the first. You have got to give that in itself, some respect.


What Wallace started has had lasting effects, and not just for Kubota corporate or their dealership network. Anytime an owner of a gray market or ZEN-NOH tractor wonders where their equipment came from and how it managed to find its way to Tecumseh, Kansas, there is a good chance Mike Wallace had something to do with it.




Edited by Moosetales, September 13, 2013 - 12:14 AM.

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#2 chris m OFFLINE  

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Posted September 13, 2013 - 01:17 AM

That was an interesting read! Quiet the history lesson too. Thanks for sharing :thumbs:

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#3 Guest_gravely-power_*

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Posted September 13, 2013 - 05:32 AM

Very informative.

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Posted September 13, 2013 - 10:35 AM

A good read and one I have read before(while looking for a compact myself). The bottom line in my opinion is the Gray Market tractors were and are Straight line production models from the original manufaturer .  It is a good machine and parts are available. The Trick is to cross reference with the same model sold by the manufaturer as a legal import(Not Grey) get the parts manuals and owners manuals for the (socalled legitimate) import and buy the parts you need(Do not tell the dealer you have a grey market machine,He is barred from selling Parts with the threat of loss of franchise).

It may take a little work, but can payoff to those in the know.

Edited by JD DANNELS, September 13, 2013 - 10:37 AM.

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#5 EconChuck OFFLINE  

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Posted September 13, 2013 - 01:21 PM


I owned a  Yanmar gray market (YM2100) tractor for a couple of years and bought it from a importer/dealer knowing it was "gray"

In my case it was for the most part a reliable tractor. Parts availabilty was an issue mainly because of the Yanmar lack of a dealer network and John Deere crossover models did not exist. When I went to sell/trade it I eventually traded at a John Deere dealer and they did not want to touch it but eventually did (2nd dealer). Looking back, I would not have bought a gray market tractor.


Kubota story, I bought a B6000 off ebay and whle it was a legitimate US model and I was able to get parts from the local Kubota dealer, he told me that he had been instructed not to sell parts for that model.


How can Kubota justify selling tractors to Zen-noh  for resale to farmers in the same country at lower prices than what A Kubota would be sold? Are there no Kubota dealers in Japan?



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Posted September 13, 2013 - 04:25 PM

Great info!! Thanks for sharing it!


I have a Yanmar 187D which is a "made for the USA" model. I bought it from a JD dealer up in PA that took it on a trade.


I have not tried to get parts from the local JD dealer since I have had good support off the internet. That being said, I am a little concerned as time goes by it may get harder to do.


I probably should try to locate a few spare parts and keep on the shelf for that rainy day when it happens. All in all, it has been a good experience for me.


I plan on keeping mine for many years.

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Posted September 13, 2013 - 06:47 PM

You ever have one of those feelings that something's just not right? Well, I had said a few prayers, done a lot of research and nothing seemed to be aligning for me to get out to see the tractor today; an hour from where I work. I headed out, taking back roads to make up time, and to my dismay I came to a road block that had not been there ever before. Ugh! I had to back track 4-5 miles and while back tracking the thought hit me to call my local tractor dealer to ask whether or not they would service the tractor if I were to purchase it. To my surprise (and now to my relief) the service rep explained to me that he was not allowed to let a "gray market" tractor on his premises. He continued stating that he cannot service the tractor, cannot supply me with parts and cannot do anything. He is a Yanmar dealer and Yamnar wrote all of this into his contract and if he were to violate the contract the penalties would be significant.


I had to chuckle to myself when the service manager stated that the reason he could not work on "gray market" tractors was due to safety hazards; i.e. they don't have ROPS or other safety devices. When I suggested that it might be more about the money he maintained the party line. When I asked about working on a Ford 8N tractor, which had NO safety devices he stated it had been built long before safety was in vogue so it was okay. We ended the call on good terms and I was relieved. I called the seller and explained I would not be coming out due to my need for support if I were to invest as much in a tractor as I was on the cusp of doing.


Oh well, I learned a ton from this adventure. That's what it's about, right? Thanks for chiming in.

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Posted September 13, 2013 - 08:38 PM

Imo, that is a wise decision.

It is disappointing that Kubota and Yanmar are making the decision that they will not sell parts for the older models because of the lack of safety equipment on them.
That is also the reason that my local Kubota dealer gave on selling parts for the B6000.

Good luck. Chuck
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Posted September 13, 2013 - 09:00 PM

One thing I left out, I did stop by one of our other local tractor dealers in another brand. I asked them if they would work on my tractor if I ever needed some service. He said he had no problem working on it. I think you can find a shop that will work on it, but you will need to do your homework and in some cases find the parts. I have been ordering from one of my guys for over 3 years. He has provided me parts on both Yanmars I have owned. His name is Gary Jamieson with Jamieson tractors and if you own a Yanmar he is the guy to go to. In my case he has and still does own a Yanmar 186/187 like mine. So he is very familiar with all the nuances with this particular model. The parts I have bought are yanmar parts with yanmar labeling. Some old stock some newly ordered from Yanmar. Again the model I own is not a grey market tractor, but it was limited in its sales in the USA, so there will always be some concern about parts. In 2 years, I have had only a handful of issues, all were resolved and the parts were available. I think you have to be prepared to do a good bit of the up keep yourselves on these tractors and only take it to a shop when you have to.


The one thing about these tractors is if you do your homework you can get a lot of tractor for your money. I paid $4200 for a 18hp 4wh drive tractor with a fel. Tractor had less than 600 hours on it......I would not sell it for less than $5000. (but I don't plan on selling it). The same comparable used model from JD I suspect would be at least $8000-9000. yes JD value will hold and parts will continue to be available. I had the $4500 to invest .....not the $8500-9000.......


I am not familiar with the 2000 series tractors built by yanmar (it is a yanmar grey tractor)- there is another site I am on now and then that has some of the best grey market yanmar guys around. I have not kept up with the changes since these new rulings.


Some of these grey market tractors came from parts of the world that painted and cleaned them up, but were not necessarily repaired  correctly. I have heard horror stories of tractors with25 hours and some with newer manufactured dates of 90's and 2000's falling apart, motors seizing etc. ( none of these tractors should have low hours so buyer beware if you see this and most all are 70's-80's tractors) Mine was probably built in 84. Their were legitimate repairers that did the job right......just got to find out where the tractor you are buying came from and who did the repair/restore job on it. I am no expert on this....just my 2 cents.


Here is the link to the Yanmar site for their position on grey market tractors.





The tractors below are not grey market and were sold in the USA legally.


Tractors authorized For Sale in the U.S. by Yanmar Co. Ltd. 


GT 14 YM 186D YM 122 YM 187 YM 135 YM 187D YM 135D YM 195 YM 140 YM 195D YM 140D YM 220 YM 146 YM 220D YM 147 YM 226 YM 147D YM 226D YM 155 YM 240 YM 155D YM 240D YM 165 YM 276 YM 165D YM 276D YM 169 YM 330 YM 169D YM 330D YM 180 YM 336 YM 180D YM 336D YM 186  

this does not guarantee they will still have parts for these tractors, but they were authorized to be sold in the USA therefore they should back these models with parts and service. Some of these models were very limited in sales and getting parts even for these are almost impossible. Hoye as some of the best info on what models to buy and what not to buy. http://www.hoyetract...delstoavoid.htm



I noticed Hoye Tractor Supply is still up and running........and according to their site, they can get tractors parts etc. (some are salvaged parts because certain parts are no longer available)


This is something you need to go into with your eyes wide open.


The Zen-Noh article was great info, and provided some clarity to what went on. I never knew the link between Zen-noh and the different tractor makes.  I think you made the right decision to wait.......keep doing your homework.....good luck on your quest.

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