PIANOS: ECONOMIC AND COMPETITIVE CONDITIONS
Investigation No. 332-401 Publication 3196
Appendix E - Europe Text 1
Pianos made in Germany, Austria, and Italy have a reputation for superb quality, with many companies building on century-old traditions of craftsmanship. Such pianos are often considered a longterm investment, and the purchase price is generally of secondary consideration compared with the quality and resale value of the instrument. Five of the leading companies that manufacture these top-of-the-line pianos are C. Bechstein, L. Bosendorfer Piano Factory, Fazioli Piano Factory, Schimmel Piano Group, and Steinway & Sons. All except Fazioli have been the targets of foreign investors. Bechstein, which has reportedly balanced traditional craftsmanship and modern production technology, was owned by Baldwin Piano & Organ from 1963 to 1989.Bosendorfer, which makes one of the highest rated grand pianos, was purchased by Kimball International in 1966 to complement the line of vertical pianos the company produced in West Baden Springs, IN, until 1996. Steinway & Sons is a subsidiary of Steinway Musical Properties, Inc. of Long Island City, NY. The factory in Germany supplies Steinway pianos to markets in Europe, Africa, and Asia. The sister subsidiary in New York, Steinway, Inc., supplies the markets in North and South America from its factory in Long Island City.
Yamaha Corporation (Japan) owns a controlling interest in Kemble & Company and a 24.9 percent stake in Schimmel. With a factory in England, Kemble is the largest piano producer in Western Europe and accounts for 85 percent of piano production in the United Kingdom. The company makes vertical pianos and markets them under both the Kemble and Yamaha labels. The Schimmel line allows Yamaha to offer its customers a uniquely-styled, high-end, German-made alternative. Schimmel exports approximately 300 vertical and 350 grand pianos to the United States each year, which are marketed by independent dealers, and approximately 100 vertical pianos to Japan, which are marketed by Yamaha.
At the other end of the spectrum are pianos from the former Eastern Bloc countries, where economic constraints have reportedly led to difficulties in obtaining good-quality materials or modern production equipment for building pianos. Workmanship for many pianos from Russia and Eastern Europe has been inconsistent in recent years. Nevertheless, low-cost labor has made pianos from Eastern Europe attractive as price-competitive, entry-level instruments. The two largest of these Central and Eastern European manufacturers are Tallinn Klaveri Vabrik and Tovarna na Piana. Tallinn was formed when the Government of Estonia consolidated the country’s production of pianos into a single factory in 1950. The company is reported to be the largest producer of grand pianos in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. Similarly, Tovarna is the result of the consolidation of piano producers by the Government of Czechoslovakia in 1965. Petrof brand pianos, which are now produced in a number of locations in the Czech Republic, are one of the fastest growing lines exported to the United States from Europe. They are reportedly noted for their tone and the quality of the workmanship in their cabinetry.
Nordpiano is the most recent entry among European piano producers exporting to the United States. It was established in Mecklenburg, Germany, in 1996 and markets one model each of vertical and grand pianos, both under the Mecklenburg brand. Nordpiano reportedly competes directly with pianos produced in Korea, Poland, and the Czech Republic. According to Steffan Hoffman, company founder, Nordpiano has been able to keep its costs low by (1) government “rewards” for each person hired in the Mecklenburg region, which is experiencing high unemployment; (2) additional government “kickbacks” for investment in technology; and (3) production sharing in Russia.73 By having certain processes done in Russia instead of Germany (including the application of polyester and drying of keyboards), the company reportedly reduces both labor costs and costs involved in complying with Germany’s stricter environmental protection standards.