In response to changing conditions in the piano market, the organization BVK – Bundesverband Klavier e.V. has created certificate programs that authenticate brands as “Made In Germany” or “Made In Europe” for the benefit of confused customers. BVK membership includes piano makers and key parts suppliers located in Europe. Increasingly, brands founded in Germany and other parts of Europe have expanded their manufacturing to other factories around the globe. At the same time, new piano companies with little or no affiliation to these established brands seek to exploit weak international trademark infringement policies. BVK has established a center of information for consumers where brands that have met the strict criteria can be included for their transparency in manufacturing & brand information.
For BVK, the definition of “Made In Germany” and “Made In Europe” benefits from transparancy, noting that many key steps in the piano manufacturing process must take place in the home country so that public perception can be in line with reality. In other industries, similar organizations have formed when brand strategies have differed. In Switzerland, the watch industry now has a faction that wishes to raise the standard to 80% of parts & labor as the minimum for “Swiss Made” whereas the current standard is only 50% of manufacturing costs must be completed within the borders. Since German and other European piano brands often command top dollar for their instruments, BVK seeks to differentiate “certified” members from those who wield their brand differently.
Of greater concern to the members of BVK is to advocate in defense of their brands in emerging markets where trademark infringement is commonplace. Reports from Musical Instrument trade shows in China have included as many as four Chinese companies simultaneously using a single German trademark, all without affiliation and all in violation of international trademark laws. Imagine walking the halls and seeing a booth for Feurich Pianos…and then another…and then two more?!? These instruments are free from standards and then negatively affect the brand as consumers fall prey to this practice.
BVK does not represent the interests of every German or European brand. Some brands believe quality is derived from the “company of origin” rather than the “country of origin” and see expanding their brand as the future of their company. Other companies value their independence.
Several European brands have expanded their manufacturing to include tiered product levels that take advantage of global manufacturing. This practice is commonplace among mass-produced piano makers looking to control manufacturing costs, but has become a trend among some smaller traditional piano makers looking to expand their brand. For example, most average consumers associate Yamaha with “Made In Japan,” a phrase that evolved over decades from early, cheaply made goods to later mean precision manufacturing and often “state-of-the-art.” Those same average consumers are often blithely unaware that today, the majority of Yamaha’s pianos are made outside of Japan in either China or Indonesia. While not a mark on the company’s standards, the public consciousness has not caught up to reality, and some customers are shocked because they associate brand quality with country of origin.
For a small, traditional German brand like Seiler, their brand expansion meant taking some of their most popular designs to the larger plants of their parent company around the world. This allowed the brand to expand from a few hundred pianos built each year to a few thousand. While hardly mass produced like some brands that exceed 100,000 pianos each year, the goal is to allow more customers and more piano stores access these fine designs at an upper-middle price class. These instruments carry the Seiler name, Seiler design and many of the same components, but are separated by series names like ED and ES versus the SE that designates the models that are “Made In Germany” and carry the highest price. Because of this strategy, each instrument is strikingly similar, but consumers can opt to invest more for the subtle nuances that the higher priced instruments offer. Under BVK’s philosophy, these lines may not share the same brand name. Seiler is a BVK member but does not hold a certificate.
Now that this resource exists, we can annouce that one of our elite brands, Grotrian, has a BVK Certificate that they are “Made In Germany.” Grotrian is the North American brand for GROTRIAN-STEINWEG GmbH & Co. KG, a founding member of BVK, and consistently rated as a top 8 elite piano maker. Considering that the combined annual production of all top 8 makers represents less than 1% of new pianos produced and that there are over 100 brands today, that is a proud distinction. Certificate holders must repeat their review every two years to renew the certificate and keep their standing with BVK. We have a copy of the Grotrian BVK Certificate that you may review here in our showroom.
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