Don’t Be Fooled by Premium Brand Names

maytag-logo11When you think  of premium brands who comes to mind?  A name that comes to mind when you are talking about automobiles is Lexus, or Cadillac, or Mercedes, or BMW.  When it comes to windows and doors it might be Pella, Larson, or Andersen.  When it comes to major appliances it might be GE or Whirlpool.  But, when it comes to laundry products, (Washers and Dryers) it isMaytag.  So, what do you really get for the name?  Sometimes not as much as you might think!

Exploring the Maytag Brand

Let’s use Maytag as the example.  Did you know that about three years ago Whirlpool bought the Maytag Corporation and has since closed all the Maytag laundry facilities in Newton, IA., Herrin, IL., and Searcy AK.?  Did you know that the Maytag designs, for many years considered the standard for washer and dryers in the appliance business, no longer exist in the market place except at a backyard sale?  Did you know that, other than appearance of the control panel, if you purchased a Maytag Performa washer or dryer prior to 2006, which at that time was Maytag’s best selling model, it was really no different than a cheaper Magic Chef, Admiral, Crosley, Amana, Norge or even Montgomery Ward model.  Sorry, but it’s true!

Not just similar, look inside!

They are not just a similar design built on the same assembly line, but they are essentially the same machine made to look a little different.  Same transmission, same motor, same inner tub, same inner basket, same timers, same cabinet, same suspension, same paint, same quality standards, same everything except the control panel styling.  How do I know?  Thirty three years in the appliance industry tells me so.   laundry_pairs_031Well, it goes a whole lot deeper than that!  Just prior to the acquisition by Whirlpool, Maytag’s highest priced premium front load laundry product was actually a Samsung product, with the Maytag name on it, built in Korea, by Samsung, sold as a full fledged Maytag with Newton, IA. on the carton.

Maytag or Whirlpool – Whirlpool builds them all

whirlpool1And now, Whirlpool builds them all using their own designs, and still advertises them under the Maytag Ol ‘Lonely mystique and dependability heritage. maytag-olonely1The same goes for their refrigerators, ranges, and most all of their other products.  What Whirlpool really bought three years ago was all the Maytag brand names.  The well known and respected Maytag brand name brings a premium price, it’s just good business to continue to use it.  The other cheaper brand names are used to get volume at the lower price points.  In fact, anything you buy with the Maytag name on it is truly no different than the less expensive Whirlpool or Kenmore brand.  Oh yeah, Kenmore has always been nothing more than a Sears brand name on a product built by Whirlpool or some other manufacturer.  There has never been a Kenmore manufacturing plant.  Today, there is no such thing as a Maytag manufacturing plant.  The only thing left of the Maytag brand is the nameplate on a Whirlpool product.  The product is the same as any of the other Whirlpool brands.  The washers are built in a Whirlpool plant in Clyde, Ohio and the dryers are built in a Whirlpool plant in Marion, Ohio.

The Short Version of how it happens:

Admiral Refrigeration and Norge laundry, along with Jenn Aire (all stand alone businesses at one time), were acquired by Magic Chef Range products to become a full line Appliance manufacturer.  Maytag built only washers, dryers, dishwashers, and garbage disposals at the time.  Maytag then acquired Amana  in a similar fashion.  Later Maytag went on to acquire Magic Chef Corp.  Eventually products were consolidated to the most cost effective manufacturing facilities based on the type of product they built.  As a further cost effective move, designs were cost reduced, consolidated, and the most costly were eliminated.  Brand names became nothing more than appearance and styling to appeal to a certain type of consumer.  Next, Whirlpool acquired the whole mess because Maytag Corp., as a business, was struggling and Whirlpool wanted the Maytag and Jenn-Air brand names.   Whirlpool did its own cost reduction, consolidating and eliminating.  A repeat of what Magic Chef did except bigger yet.   Get where I am going?

The is no longer anything Maytag about a Maytag!  It’s a Whirlpool through and through.  I am not saying they aren’t a great product.  Whirlpool builds a good product.  The Maytag brand is every bit as good, but no better, than the rest of the Whirlpool brands.  I am not saying I wouldn’t buy one.  What I am saying is that I wouldn’t pay one extra penny for the Maytag name unless I was trying to impress my uninformed friends.

And, it is not just Maytag.   It is very common in many different industries.

A few other Examples:

  • Toyota builds the Lexus.
  • GM builds the same basic cars and trucks for Chevolet and GMC brand names (so far this month)
  • GM also builds Cadillac, Pontiac, and Buick.
  • Ford does the same for Ford, Mercury and Lincoln.
  • Chrysler does it for the Chrysler and Dodge brands
  • Larson builds, among others, Pella storm doors (I found this out when I had a warranty claim on my Pella storm door and Larson sent me a new one last week).
  • Most  microwave ovens are made by one company under several different brand names.
  • LG is nothing more than the old “Lucky Goldstar” company, synonymous with junk prior to renaming itself in 1995.
  • Samsung has more than 20 company brand names themselves and builds product for many more US brand companies.

These are just a few examples.  The list goes on for miles.  As Boomers looking to make our retirement nest eggs last, sometimes it helps to be aware of what you really need to pay extra for! … And what you don’t!   Once again, don’t be “Boombazzeled” by what you think may be the best!

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