40 Years of Gehl Skid Loader Design and Manufacturing

40 Years of Gehl Skid Loader Design and Manufacturing

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In 1973, Gehl Company (today Manitou Americas Inc.), a manufacturer of compact earthmoving and material handling equipment, began designing and manufacturing its own line of skid loaders. Working side by side with our customers, the line has constantly evolved over the last 40 years. Today, a complete line of seven radial and three vertical lift models, including the V400, the world’s largest skid loader, are offered under the Gehl brand name. 

“The Gehl brand is dedicated to its roots of designing and producing durable, easy-to-use skid loaders,” said Dan Miller, CEO of Manitou Americas and president of the Manitou Group CE-Compact Equipment Division. “Our task for the future is incorporating innovation and technology into our loaders, yet still maintaining the ease of use our customers have come to expect.” 

To carry the success of the skid loader line into the future, Manitou Americas Inc. continues the tradition of developing equipment to match the demands of our core customers in agriculture, construction and rental applications. The investment in a state-of-the-art Research and Design facility in West Bend, Wis., in 2009 paved the way for future innovation and durability testing. 

“Look for Gehl branded skid loaders to deliver new customer focused models without abandoning our heritage,” said Brian Rabe, manager of Product Development. “This measured approach has worked for Gehl skid loaders for 40 years, and for the Gehl brand for over 150 years. You can’t argue with history.” 

By leveraging its long history in the skid loader market with the addition of innovative, exclusive features – like the original hands-only control system, the T-Bar; the Powerview lift arm; and the adjustable, side-anchored operator restraint bar – Manitou Americas looks to entice new skid loader users while maintaining its core customer base. 

With the rich heritage the Gehl brand enjoys in the agriculture and rental markets, Manitou Americas is dedicated to manufacturing equipment with the right mix of technology and simplicity, ensuring reliability and easy maintenance and service. 


Based on the company’s long history and heritage in the agricultural implements business, the customer base in the early 1970s was primarily agricultural. The company recognized a demand for a compact loader among its customers, and struck a deal with the Ericsson Company in Minneapolis, Minn., to manufacture the first Gehl branded skid loader. 

“In reality, Gehl marketed its first skid loader in 1969,” said Kelly Moore, product & training specialist at Manitou Americas. Moore has worked closely with the Gehl brand skid loader product line since 1978. “This unit was a private labeled product known as the 3030 and it was the beginning of great things to follow in the skid loader industry.” 

Gehl Company quickly realized that to control their skid loader product offering, they needed to manufacture and design their own line. In July 1973, the first Gehl brand skid loader was manufactured in Madison, S.D. Forty years later, Gehl brand skid loaders are still manufactured in Madison. 

Over the next 15 years, the Gehl branded skid loader product line brought many industry “firsts” for the skid loader market. Performance features such as liquid-cooled engines, hydrostatic transmissions and diesel-powered machines hit the market in the early 1970s. 

In the late 70s, and early 80s Gehl brand skid loaders featured a rollback ROPS and hydraulic solenoid lift arm lockouts for easier maintenance. In 1982, Gehl Company revolutionized the skid loader business with the 4610, a 44 hp unit that featured the operator restraint bar for more comfort and added protection. 

In the mid-1980s the model 4615 was added, specifically designed for the construction market. The models 6620 and 6625 entered the Gehl brand into the largest skid loader class. By 1995, the Gehl brand offered a full line of eight models serving the agricultural and construction markets. 

Many of the historic late 70s and 80s machines are still in regular use today; a perfect example of the deep dedication to the design and manufacture of dependable, long-lasting products. 

Throughout the years, the dedication to the skid loader product offering never changed. Product updates included more powerful engines, higher lift heights and compact dimensions. The Gehl brand skid loader has consistently evolved, answering customer demands for a reliable and adaptable machine. 

About Manitou
Manitou Group is headquartered in Ancenis (West of France). Manitou Group designs, assembles and distributes material-handling solutions for agriculture, construction and industrial markets. Business is conducted under the Manitou, Gehl, Mustang, Loc and Edge trademarks, through 1,400 independent dealers in more than 120 countries. 


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