AGZA Communications Director Luke Massman-Johnson had an opportunity to visit Pacific STIHL's distribution center, headquartered in Visalia, CA and serving the Southwestern US. Luke was introduced to Pacific STIHL leadership and welcomed to the massive facility, including a walkthrough of the tool training center and a brand new 40-foot retail display wall dedicated to showcasing STIHL’s three battery-electric lines — AI, AK, and AP.
STIHL’s sales and distribution model is fairly unique in the outdoor power equipment (OPE) industry, with tighter integration of sales training, marketing, and retail display through every dealership. This higher level of oversight and partnership ensures every sales person representing the STIHL brand has a professional understanding of the features and performance of the STIHL lineup, and that all servicing dealers offer best-in-class on-site service and warranty support.
That’s why you won’t find STIHL at big box retailers. It also means that STIHL can optimize product display and physical retail space within each dealership (see the “ STIHL Wall” section below).
STIHL boasts a century of leadership and innovation in gas outdoor power equipment, and today the STIHL brand is one of the world’s largest and most trusted. And while gas tools for commercial users continues to be their bread and butter, to their tremendous credit, they were also one of the first gas tool manufacturers to make a serious investment in developing some of the earliest and best battery electric tools.
In fact instead of putting a toe in the water by designing modest homeowner battery models, STIHL jumped in with both feet and created the most commercially capable battery electric tools they could produced. That early leap to lithium half a decade ago has kept STIHL among the leaders of the pack, even as other gas manufacturers ramp up their own lithium lines, and newer battery-only manufacturers enter the global OPE sector.
AGZA has been in the land care business for decades, since before battery-electric lawn tools were viable for all-day commercial workloads. But having had STIHL battery tools in use at commercial sites for up to five years now, AGZA can attest to the durability, reliability, and long-term performance of STIHL’s tools and batteries.
With all that in mind, it was an honor for AGZA to be invited to see Pacific STIHL’s new model battery-electric retail wall. This modular display system not only creates pristine, organized and highly branded space for STIHL’s tools within retailers, it instantly impresses customers with the scope of STIHL’s commitment to its three battery electric platforms — AI, AK, and AP.
This proprietary installation creates a self-contained STIHL store-within-a-store, and has the flexibility to span from just a couple sections up to the all-encompassing 40-foot wall shown below.
This wall represents STIHL’s comprehensive effort to provide emission-free tools for every customer. There are quality hand tools, a few corded tools for shop and yard, some light-duty battery tools for homeowners (the AI line), more rigorous homeowner and prosumer battery tools (the AK line), and STIHL’s most powerful commercially-capable battery electric tools (the AP line), plus an extensive range of accessories and replacement parts. This is one of the most extensive offerings of battery electric equipment by any manufacturer, and there’s a tool to meet just about every need.
STIHL also prides itself on safety. Their tools integrate thoughtful ergonomic and safety features, and the STIHL wall showcases a tremendous array of safety gear as well — from gloves and protective glasses to the highest-quality chainsaw chaps, to helmets with face guards and over-ear protection.
AGZA’s core audience is the full-time commercial grounds maintenance workforce, and STIHL’s AP line has proven itself to be capable of replacing gas equipment for most routine land care operations. In fact during the development of our municipal and academic AGZA Green Zones®, when AGZA has presented our clients with a choice of battery electric manufacturers, STIHL equipment has consistently been one of the top choices.
Let’s take a closer look at the AP tools* on the wall.
*NOTE: AGZA always advocates for the tool with the lowest impact that can still get a commercial operator through his or her workload. In many cases that is a hand tool, so we have called them out on the STIHL wall below as an integral part of any professional emissions-free toolset.
Another potentially very helpful innovation built into the wall is STIHL’s touch-screen tool selector. A user-friendly interface helps customers make simple choices that reflect their work needs, and are instantly directed to the line and tools that will perform best.
Our understanding is that there will be two target environments for STIHL’s showcase wall. One is their new network of Battery Electric Retailers (BERs) — which will target homeowners and prosumers. Those retail environments will have a STIHL wall featuring the AI and AK lines.
Full-service dealers that offer STIHL’s extensive gas line, and which include in-house service, repair, and warranty, will be able to showcase the entire battery electric showcase wall shown above — including the AI and AK lines, but also the entire top-of-the-line AP suite.
STIHL’s AP line is the manifestation of their commitment to powerful, effective, safe and reliable battery-electric tools that are capable of replacing most commercial gas hand-held equipment. This is a big part of why AGZA has inducted STIHL’s AP line to our AGZA Approved Battery Electric Equipment Directory.
Enough marketing — time to put chain to wood and blade to grass! Pacific STIHL’s dealer support specialists J.P. Dermendjian, Kyle Lurz, and Kevin Jillson gave Luke the rest of their morning to walk through tool training on a few of their core AP tools.
Full disclosure: Luke is AGZA’s CFO and Communications Director and has limited experience operating gas or electric tools in a commercial setting. The goal here wasn’t to bring Luke up to a professional skillset, but rather give him a sense of the high level of safety and hands-on training that all STIHL dealers are required to have as part of their commitment to uphold STIHL’s high bar for integrated sales, distribution, and customer service.
Luke was fitted with pro-level chaps, safety glasses, and a helmet with full face screen and over-ear protection.
ABOVE: The MSA200 and its slightly smaller sibling MSA160 have a range of standard safety features including front hand guard chain brake and STIHL’s unique reduced kickback bar and low kickback chain.
ABOVE: The MSA200 is the most powerful STIHL battery chainsaw, smoothly powered through this massive practice block. It can be configured with a 10”, 12” or 14” bar and has a run time up to 45 min on a single AP300 battery. The MSA160 supports a 10” or 12” bar and runs up to 50 min on a single charge.
NOT SHOWN: Luke also tried the HTA65 Pole Saw and was surprised how easily it cut through the same huge block. The STIHL crew pointed out that many of the bar lengths and chain options for STIHL’s battery chainsaws and pole saws are identical, making stocking parts and performing routine maintenance that much easier.
ABOVE: The HSA94T Hedge Trimmer and it’s variant the HSA94R are STIHL’s top-of-the-line double-edged double-action hedge trimmers. Both feature a 24” blade and a pivoting rear handle for vertical use, and both are powered by any of the AR battery backpacks. The “T” version is intended for more refined hedging and shaping, and has a smaller tooth gap and a higher SPM (stroke per minute). The “R” version is for heavier work and therefore has a larger tooth gap and slightly lower SPM, with higher low-end torque to power through thicker material.
ABOVE: One of STIHL’s most innovative tools is the KMA130R, a multi-tool drive system powered by any of the three AR battery backpacks. It features a split-shaft coupling to attach any of thirteen different tool heads (string trimmer shown). The thirteen attachments are the exact heads used in the gas version — same build, durability, and professional results, but without the emissions or even the handheld tool weight of gas.
“As noted in the TRAINING DAY section above, I’m not a commercial operator. However, I have a background in industrial design and am passionate about equipment and technology. Over the past four years at AGZA I have handled and compared a full spectrum of battery electric tools from most of the major manufacturers.”
“I’ve run tools that feel heavy or imbalanced, that have poor ergonomics or questionable design features, or that have anemic power. Those experiences make me really appreciate when I get ahold of tools and battery systems that are clearly better made, better handling, and more capable of all-day performance.”
“I also look very closely at tool features and specs: materials, construction, IP ratings, benchmarks for power and performance, routine maintenance requirements, repairability, warranty, etc. It is obvious that STIHL’s AP line comes from a pedigree of top-level industrial designer and veteran engineers.”
“AGZA can report with confidence that the materials, build, ergonomics, features and performance of the STIHL AP line are among the best battery-electric OPE in the industry.”
— Luke Massman-Johnson, AGZA Communications Director
AGZA APPROVED STIHL EQUIPMENT
Below is the full lineup* of AGZA Approved commercial-grade STIHL AP tools.
*NOTE: AGZA has not yet had the opportunity to fully test the KMA130R multi-tool, but if it performs as well as the others shown below, we will be adding it to the AGZA Approved list.