Craftsman pulls luxury riding mower to Detroit auto show

DETROIT ― In a town where the cars are the stars, a tractor with a top speed of 8-miles-per-hour is ready for its closeup.

Equipped with cupholders, power steering and other fancy trappings, a new line of premium riding lawn mowers from Sears Holdings Corp’s. Craftsman division will debut next month at the Detroit auto show.

It’s rare for a non-automobile company to use the show as a launch pad for vehicles not sold at a car dealership, but Craftsman hopes the early January debut can turn car buffs on to a new generation of tractors that come with more advanced technology.

“A lot of people, when they think about mowing, they think about using the tractor as a chore,” Craftsman General Manager Kris Malkoski said in an interview on Thursday. “This is a premium tractor — more of a luxury.”

Priced between $3,000 and $6,500, Craftsman’s new CTX lineup carry price tags that are as much as double that of more economic mowers.

The move to launch a family of tractors at a car show rather than a conventional lawn and garden show could greatly increase visibility for the brand as it aims to move up market to better take on rivals like Deere & Co., Cub Cadet and Toro Co. Craftsman generates $2.5 billion in annual revenue from power products, including drills and garage door openers.

About 750,000 people attend the Detroit show, including thousands of journalists from dozens of countries. For years, automakers have been using the venue to unveil next year’s models or test receptivity to moonshot concept cars.

At times, those automakers have even showed off products that are not part of typical product line, such as when Ford Motor Co. unveiled electrified bicycles or Honda Motor Co. featured its ASIMO humanoid robot.