Caterpillar Case Study Harvard

Case | HBS Case Collection | February 1985 (Revised September 1988)

Caterpillar Tractor Co.

by Christopher A. Bartlett


Describes the structure and evolution of the earth moving equipment industry worldwide in the post war era, particularly focusing on developments in the 1960s and 1970s. Describes Caterpillar's strategy in becoming the dominant worldwide competitor (industry market share exceeding 50%). Includes details on CAT's manufacturing, marketing research and development, and organizational policies. Concludes with a description of some environmental changes occurring in the early 1980s, and raises the question of how these might effect Caterpillar Tractor Co.'s record 1981 performance and require changes in its highly successful strategy.

Keywords: Business Growth and Maturation; Business Strategy; Manufacturing Industry; Agriculture and Agribusiness Industry;


Reviews and updates the structure and characteristics of the earth-moving equipment industry presented in the companion case, Caterpillar Tractor Co. After revealing that CAT has suffered major financial losses during the period from 1981 through 1984, the case describes how Komatsu grew from a $170 million local manufacturer in 1963 to become CAT's major challenge in the emerging global competitive battle. The case traces the strategy followed by Komatsu in developing its product technology, manufacturing capability, and marketing skills worldwide. The supplement, Caterpillar-Komatsu in 1986, provides an update to the global competitive interaction between Caterpillar and Komatsu. Caterpillar's response to Komatsu's growing market share is outlined, then the impact of rapidly changing dollar/yen exchange rates provides Caterpillar with an interesting pricing decision.

Keywords: Financial Crisis; Machinery and Machining; Price; Growth and Development; Brands and Branding; Product Development; Production; Competitive Strategy; Global Strategy; Manufacturing Industry; Agriculture and Agribusiness Industry; Industrial Products Industry;

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