Despite encouraging reports from Hoover, Eureka and Panasonic, the rest of the floor caree industry is approaching today’s sophisticated electronic technology in product development cautiously.
Many firms, such as Douglas Products, Regina, Bissell and Metropolitan vacuum cleaner, are admittedly studying chip technology, but are openly skeptical about its feasibility. Others, including Alliance Manufacturing and Shop Vac, flatly state they have no plans for moving in this direction.
Most producers concede that its high cost is the inhibiting factor in the growth of electronic systems in vacs.
The big question the skeptics ask: In this price-sensitive business, will the consumer pay the high tag for such electronic features as variable speed controls and full-bag indicators that in reality do not improve the cleaning power? Electronic models, it is said, usually retail from $300 to $400, while standard vacs that sell in volume are priced at under $150.
Toshiba is probably the firm closet to joining Hoover, Eureka and Panasonic in the ranks of electronic vac producers.
Product manager Michael Murphy said Toshiba definitely is looking into the technology: “We will be traveling to Japan next month and it’s a good bet that this will be explored there. It’s probably a year away for us. We’re new to the (vac) field and want to do it right the first time.”
But it was Jim Flynn, marketing vice president for Regina, who probably best reflected the attitude of vac producers toward the electronic concept: “We are looking at it (chip technology), he said, but, the technology would have to provide a real benefit to the consumer to justify the incremental costs it entails.
“Basically,” he said, “electronic technology now is primarily bells and whistles, and adds considerable cost to the unit. At this point, the cost of technology is too high to give customers a value. It may be a different story when costs come down,” Flynn said. (more…)