Down to earth, determined, innovative

Helmut Claas was first and foremost a farmer. He always emphasised that it is impossible to develop good machines if you do not understand agriculture itself. And he was an enthusiastic engineer. All kinds of technologies interested him and his work gave him a lot of pleasure. Entrepreneurial, but above all technical. He was happy in the factory and in technical development.

His career at CLAAS also began in the technology area, after his apprenticeship as a mechanical engineer and a few semesters in agriculture. He thought in terms of alternatives and it was important to him to critically question every solution, especially the one currently in place.

This leading position is embodied in two of the world’s most successful combine harvester model series – the DOMINATOR and LEXION. And with the JAGUAR, Helmut Claas also made his company the world market leader for forage harvesters. His vision and persistence were again to the fore in new product developments such as the XERION and the TERRA TRAC caterpillar track technology, which broke new ground for the entire industry.

But Helmut Claas was not the kind of man to bask in glory or boast about his achievements. Being described as a visionary, an exceptional entrepreneur or an innovative engineer held no interest for him. When asked about CLAAS’ secret of success, his answer was clear yet unpretentious: “There’s no secret, just good ideas and motivated people”.

Helmut Claas always believed in the people at CLAAS and knew: trust, openness, respect and loyalty, but along with a good sense of humour, help to achieve even ambitious goals. Giving up was never an option.

Never standing still, always striving for excellence and yet staying firmly rooted in reality: this personal credo will continue to guide CLAAS into the future.

The family entrepreneur.

His staff especially appreciated his personal approach and ability to relate to people. In line with the family spirit of CLAAS, throughout his life he maintained a close relationship with staff, partners and customers.

A life devoted to agricultural technology.

Helmut Claas was passionate about developing sustainable products and mass producing them efficiently. It is no surprise that he initiated many innovations in the industry and that his company holds patents for many groundbreaking achievements.

The DOMINATOR, introduced in 1970, is one of the most successful combine harvester product ranges of all time, and has now been sold all around the world for more than 40 years.

Launched in 1995, the LEXION is one of the most modern and powerful combine harvesters in the world.

With the success story of the JAGUAR forage harvester, CLAAS became the world market leader.

The strategic acquisition of Renault's tractor division in 2003 smoothed the way for CLAAS becoming a genuine full-liner.


“I had certain ideas on what a modern tractor should look like.”

The XERION probably best exemplifies the entrepreneurial vision of Helmut Claas, who, through many difficulties, held fast to his vision of CLAAS producing its own tractor. The overall design of the XERION, including its versatility, makes it unique in the industry.

Honours and distinctions

1987 | Helmut Claas (left) receives the Order of Merit of the German state of Baden-Württemberg from Minister-President Lothar Späth.

Many internationally prestigious universities in Bulgaria, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Hungary have awarded honorary doctorates to Helmut Claas. For example, in 2000 he received the honorary title “Doctor of Agricultural Studies” in “recognition of his outstanding achievements in the field of agricultural engineering and his particular services in the development of high-performance, modern agricultural machines” from the University of Stuttgart-Hohenheim. It was also the University of Stuttgart-Hohenheim that, four years later, appointed him to its honorary senate for his lifetime achievement in the field of pioneering agricultural technology.

In June 2009, Helmut Class was conferred the title of honorary professor. The Goryachkin University of Moscow cited his extraordinary services to the development and production of modern agricultural machinery and training of young academics in the agricultural field as reasons for this decision. Also in 2009, the Republic of France appointed Helmut Claas “Knight of the Legion of Honour”, honoring his services as a pioneer of Franco-German cooperation. He was also appointed Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau by the former Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, for services to agriculture in that country. In November 2013, Helmut Claas was admitted to the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) Hall of Fame. In 2017 he was awarded the Diesel Medal by the German Institute for Inventions (Deutsches Institut für Erfindungswesen), in the category "most successful achievement in the field of innovation”.

Other personal awards include honorary citizenship of his home town of Harsewinkel, Germany, the Order of Merit of the German state of Baden-Württemberg, as well as the Order of Merit of the French Agriculture Minister.

Helmut Claas – family man.

1967, father and son: Company founder August Claas was always a role model for his son Helmut

2017, father and daughter: Helmut Claas with his daughter Cathrina on the family farm in the UK.

1972, a professional partnership becomes a marriage: During the company’s biggest crisis, Helmut Claas came to know and love the worldly and self-assured Erika Mohr († 2016). And in her words: “The rest is history”.

Helmut Claas with his younger siblings, Irmgard Baumhüter and Reinhold Claas, at his 80th birthday.

In his spare time, Helmut Claas demonstrated that despite his entrepreneurship he was still a passionate farmer. He frequently visited his farm in East Anglia, UK, with wife Erika and daughter Cathrina. He kept in touch with farmers in the area and took a special interest in farming requirements. He was also a passionate hunter.

The next generation

Helmut Claas had been planning for the future of the family business for a long time. His daughter Cathrina Claas-Mühlhäuser has been responsible for all important developments and decisions of the CLAAS Group since 2010 as Chairwoman of the Supervisory Board and since 2020 as Chairwoman of the Shareholders' Committee. The next generation has taken over the reins.

Press contact

Do you have question or need more information for your report? Please contact us.