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Norbert Offline OP
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Just back from Germany I found this chapter in the new edition of Piano Buyer interesting.

http://www.pianobuyer.com/current-issue/10-german-piano-makers-face-the-music-of-globalization.html

Not that it states completely new developments or facts: I have seen same for long time but never seemed to be believed when indicating things before. Basically it's been going on for years....

For once it's nice to have the BVK clearly identify those which still belong the select group of "made in Germany" pianos. Of course this information had always been available before. smirk

For another, it's interesting to learn how much this market has really been changing.
Unnoticed or vehemently "denied" by so many.

Only good thing is that ***** will [most likely] make Baldwin a "made in USA" piano again.
With inevitable smashing success to follow...

Sorry, this was my own prediction.

Not.

Norbert smirk

Last edited by Ken Knapp; 10/24/16 04:46 PM.

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Globalization has been inevitable for some time. And made in USA Baldwin will most likely put the company out of business. Know body in the US will be willing to pay the price neither will the rest of the world. And the rest of the world is where US manufactures must be if they want to stay alive Like or not, trade is a necessity you're either in or out (literally)





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Norbert, you know better than to interject any hint of politics here on the PW forums. If you believe anything politicians say, then I'm surprised you've been as successful in the piano business as you have been.

Fact is, as good a salesman as you are, and as good as you are at using PW to your advantage, I'm surprised you are not running for president. smile

No disrespect meant. It was more of a complement; you are good at what you do and I admire you for it.

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Originally Posted by Rickster


Fact is, as good a salesman as you are, and as good as you are at using PW to your advantage, I'm surprised you are not running for president. smile



Well, I can think of two very compelling reasons: First, he lives in Canada! Second, even if he was in the US, he wouldn't be eligible to be president because he was born in Germany. You'd have to be a very good salesman indeed to overcome those obstacles! wink

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You can be born in another country and be President if your parents are US citizens at the time of birth, making you a natural-born citizen.


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Originally Posted by BDB
You can be born in another country and be President if your parents are US citizens at the time of birth, making you a natural-born citizen.


Pretty sure that doesn't apply to Norbert!

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When Ah-Nold was first elected Govinator he was so popular that there was some talk of trying to do away with the natural born citizen requirement. I'm not so sure about that sentiment by the time he left office (had long since left Cah-lee-fawn-ya), and don't mean to turn this into a political thread (maybe political satire...) wink


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Whether one likes globalization or not, there are certainly winners and losers in the aggregate. Good stuff is designed and built in Germany; there is no denying it. There is also no denying that the German piano industry will continue to be crushed under the grinding, merciless wheels of globalization:
  • Built into every German-made piano is a labor cost, billed at a rate which allows people to survive in a modern nation. Chinese labor is only a fraction of German labor.
  • Also built in are costs associated with maintaining a modern society. For example, Germany has the oldest social insurance program in the world. I can't say what sort of benefits are available in China, but even if they are equivalent, it's reasonable to assume that they cost more in Germany, where they'd need to support a much more costly standard of living.
Comparative trade advantages, like those above, benefit the producer with lower costs.

German pianos are of very high quality, and most would probably agree that they are better than their foreign competitors, but 1) the price differential more than accounts for the quality difference, and, more importantly, 2) the quality gap is closing...

These are undeniable dynamics in play, and for some folks it must be like standing on a melting iceberg: you know it won't last forever.

There are already some hybrid solutions in industry:
  • German cars are built outside of Germany. For example, I drive a "German" car that was built in South Carolina.
  • Before I started consulting full-time (1996), I was IT manager for a German-owned factory in Atlanta, producing a "German" product in a locale with a lower labor cost.
But the piano industry has its own quirks. We all know how people feel about "German" pianos that aren't built in Germany. And "American" pianos that aren't built in America. Pianos are "different" somehow.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the future.


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Edit politics out of post. We can talk pianos without talking politics in any way.

Last edited by Ken Knapp; 10/24/16 04:48 PM.

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Interesting that Seiler is no longer listed as a "Made in Germany" piano. My 206 proudly sports the label GÃœTEZEICHEN RAL DEUTSCHE KLAVIERE. This instrument was built in 1988.


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i.i.r.c. only ed.seiler is still made in Deutschland, and in far smaller quantities than the asian variants like johannes seiler.

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Originally Posted by gynnis
Interesting that Seiler is no longer listed as a "Made in Germany" piano. My 206 proudly sports the label GÃœTEZEICHEN RAL DEUTSCHE KLAVIERE. This instrument was built in 1988.
The BVK certification is useful but participation is voluntary and leaves out a few well known brands because of reasonable requirements that sometimes seem like technicalities. On the BVK website, there are additional members. For example, Steinways from Hamburg are German, but they are also made in New York. Bösendorfer is proudly Austrian, though like some of the BVK members, the company is older than the current country borders. wink

We have a 1981 Seiler that has a sticker that says Made in West Germany. Looking back at Seiler's history, they were made in Denmark for a few decades as well. Today, the SE models say "Made In Bavaria, Germany" while the Eduard and Johannes models say "designed by Seiler, Germany".


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Norbert Offline OP
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I don't know how many here actually read the article I had originally attached in my opening post.

To me, the most 'noteworthy' or 'significant' statement was made in the end by June Wang, CEO of Pearl River:

Quote
"The history of the piano is European. The future is Chinese.


Perhaps she also meant "piano playing"??

All of our last 5 sales went to Chinese families.

Norbert smirk

Last edited by Norbert; 10/26/16 05:36 PM.

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Hi all

I wrote the article and I believe she meant piano manufacturing's future is Chinese. But it's true that the Chinese middle classes are a huge factor now in the piano market. As well as pushing their children to learn - echoes of postwar decades in Europe and, I presume, North America - there is a huge middle class demand in China for quality, European pianos (no doubt partly quality driven, with a touch of impressing-the-neighbours one-upmanship too!). The strategy appeara to be: if Chinese companies can buy up high-end German companies, they have that part of the market covered.

But one interviewee said something interesting to me: what happens when the Chinese middle classes realise that their Grotrian/Schimmel may be made in Germany but has an ultimate owner in China? Will the middle class Chinese customer, who shuns Chinese instruments, still buy a Schimmel? Or shift their allegiance to a truly German-owned brand like Blüthner or Steingraeber?

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Originally Posted by Dscally
But one interviewee said something interesting to me: what happens when the Chinese middle classes realise that their Grotrian/Schimmel may be made in Germany but has an ultimate owner in China? Will the middle class Chinese customer, who shuns Chinese instruments, still buy a Schimmel? Or shift their allegiance to a truly German-owned brand like Blüthner or Steingraeber?


Parsons Music and Pearl River are the new Chinese owners of Grotrian-Steinweg and Schimmel, respectively. If the new owners follow the enlightened policy that Yamaha implemented when they bought Bosendorfer, the middle-class Chinese customer will have nothing to worry about. If the new owners bought the German piano firms simply to capitalize on their prestige, and then proceed to run their German acquisitions into the ground, prospective customers WILL have something to worry about. I hope the latter approach does not prevail.

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Originally Posted by Almaviva


Parsons Music and Pearl River are the new Chinese owners of Grotrian-Steinweg and Schimmel, respectively. If the new owners follow the enlightened policy that Yamaha implemented when they bought Bosendorfer, the middle-class Chinese customer will have nothing to worry about. If the new owners bought the German piano firms simply to capitalize on their prestige, and then proceed to run their German acquisitions into the ground, prospective customers WILL have something to worry about. I hope the latter approach does not prevail.


There are other scenarios that don't affect the German production, such as manufacturing a line of Schimmels or Grotrians in China and marketing them there. That market is strong and growing, the U.S. and European markets are not. The "designed by..." label works for Steinway. Why not others.

There are other scenaios...


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Originally Posted by Steve Cohen
Originally Posted by Almaviva


Parsons Music and Pearl River are the new Chinese owners of Grotrian-Steinweg and Schimmel, respectively. If the new owners follow the enlightened policy that Yamaha implemented when they bought Bosendorfer, the middle-class Chinese customer will have nothing to worry about. If the new owners bought the German piano firms simply to capitalize on their prestige, and then proceed to run their German acquisitions into the ground, prospective customers WILL have something to worry about. I hope the latter approach does not prevail.


There are other scenarios that don't affect the German production, such as manufacturing a line of Schimmels or Grotrians in China and marketing them there. That market is strong and growing, the U.S. and European markets are not. The "designed by..." label works for Steinway. Why not others.

There are other scenaios...


I can conceive of those Chinese lines being exported privately and sold to unsuspecting customers in other countries though. Not everybody is as finely attuned to the details of pianos as we are on PW. That's how you get people buying counterfeit Steinways occasionally. Not saying this is likely to be a big problem, but I'd hope that they don't duplicate the design and fallboard name in China because that would make it very easy to create the situation I mentioned.

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Reminds me of "voter fraud".... a big brouhaha that almost never happens!


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Originally Posted by Steve Cohen
Reminds me of "voter fraud".... a big brouhaha that almost never happens!


Doesn't mean you should make it easy to happen! People will pay more for a Yamaha piano made in Japan than one made in Indonesia. But some people don't know the difference and buy the one from Indonesia thinking Yamaha makes all its pianos in Japan. That is a situation that happens very often. I've even overheard a piano salesperson misleading somebody into exactly that assumption! To quote what I heard, "and then you step up to the Japanese pianos like this one...It's obviously more expensive but it's Japanese quality.", and then he points at an Indonesian made Yamaha. I swear I saw this happen!

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Originally Posted by Steve Cohen
There are other scenarios that don't affect the German production, such as manufacturing a line of Schimmels or Grotrians in China and marketing them there. That market is strong and growing, the U.S. and European markets are not. The "designed by..." label works for Steinway. Why not others.


This is wrong on multiple levels!

For example, Grotrian's stated plan under their new "strategic alliance" is to increase production in Braunschweig in anticipation of greater sales in China. Even if they don't increase production in Germany, there still would be no greater competition, in terms of a complementary product, than a "Grotrian" produced in China. The associated drop in demand would absolutely have an effect on German production. This is Econ 101 (maybe 102).

Even if they chose a "designed by" approach and produced a "line" in China, for consumption in China--even with a different name--it would still erode sales of the premium product. How many people go to a Steinway dealership and leave with a Boston or Essex? Likewise, people who would like a Schmimmel, but settle for a Schimmelchen, will be contributing to the reduction of demand for Schimmels, which will necessarily impact German production.

Dscally posted the following, which was the catalyst for this line of discussion:

Originally Posted by Dscally
But one interviewee said something interesting to me: what happens when the Chinese middle classes realise that their Grotrian/Schimmel may be made in Germany but has an ultimate owner in China? Will the middle class Chinese customer, who shuns Chinese instruments, still buy a Schimmel? Or shift their allegiance to a truly German-owned brand like Blüthner or Steingraeber?

If Chinese consumers would be concerned about the legitimacy of a German piano's pedigree simply because the producer is owned by a Chinese company, then won't they be all the more concerned if the company is not only Chinese owned, but that the production actually happened in China, not in Germany? Almaviva is correct to point out that Chinese consumers who want the prestige of a "German" piano would have something to worry about. And the switching of allegiance to a different, genuinely German brand, will result in the reduced demand for the original product, impacting their production. This is a genuine phenomenon: there have even been Chinese folks who've sought out this very website in an effort to try to determine which German pianos are truly German.

Also, as Ando sagely pointed out, when container loads of gray market Shimmelchens or Grotrichens--used or new--start turning up in other markets, they will compete with the real thing and, again, reduce demand for them.

Put simply, there is no way to produce "German" pianos outside of Germany, without a detrimental impact on German production.


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