Libra Compact Technologies SA, San Marino, Italy, is supplying the machines to Vermeer Manufacturing Co., Pella, Iowa, under an exclusive supply agreement. Vermeer says it is offering the equipment because operators want their machines to perform more functions and a number of customers have been switching from trenchers to compact excavators.

This is the second time Libra has secured a North American importer. In 2001, it dissolved a four-year supply agreement with equipment manufacturer OmniQuip Textron, Port Washington, Wis., a move that left Libra fleet owners stuck without after-market parts and service. "Now, OmniQuip's mini-excavator customers can go to Vermeer for support," says Mark Cooper, product manager.

Ironically, Vermeer in 1980 developed its own mini excavator called the Dinky Digger, but it abandoned production after sales were disappointing. At that time, backhoe loaders were the main attention-getters.

manufacturer known for its brush-cutting and trenching equipment is entering the compact excavator market with seven new machines.