K2 buys Volkl and Marker
June 24, 2004
Wonder if this means your next pair of Volkls will be made in China?
Dayummmm!!! That is huge ! And Jimmy - who cares if they are made in China! Actually most German workers are spoiled and as long as the design team is the same or better who cares. Any trained monkey can work a press, laminator, epoxy gun, or curing oven. If it lowers the cost I have not problem. I am a software developer and I recognise that India and Pakistan are going to totally take over the segment with cheaper labor and fine you know what they can do just as good a job as their US counterparts .... that is why I stopped being a developer .... loosing battle ... time to get global!
I think this will be good for the skier. Volkl tended to underproduce some of its top lines of skis and sell them at very high rates. Last year, Ski Center ran out of Supersport 6's in November and Volkl refused to supply them or any other area store with more skis. They said that their production run on that model was over.
I know you guys are going to flames the hell out of me but I see nothing wrong in having fewer pairs of good quality ski available even if it means the prices are higher. Ya get what ya pay for, and I for one don't mind paying more for a product if that means the producer of that product gets a living wage. EU products are generally of substantially higher quality than say products made in Malaysia or some other sweatshop country like China. There is still pride in EU in doing the job right, not just to willy-nilly turn out a product. I would be willing to bet that there are more employees of Volkl/Marker that ski than employees on a Chinese ski assembly line.
My point being that if you personally use the product you manufacture you will manufacture a better product.
AND .. don't get me started on offshoring (I lived/worked in Greece for 26 yrs doing 'offshore' development for IBM)... that's not a discussing for this board. Anyone want to pursue it contact me privately. Suffice it to say ... offshoring is not good for Americans nor is it necessarily good for the offshored labor pool.
Whew!! ... This puts my mind at rest .. sorta .. considering its manager-speak I guess you should take it with a grain of salt ...
[excerpt from Ski Press article]
Heckmann said there are no plans to move Volkl's manufacturing facilities from German to Asia, especially in light of the brand's high-end status. "Certainly as far out as I can see, we would not mess with it," Heckmann said. "That's something that's inherent to their status as a high-end ski brand. I certainly don't want to be the one to tell the German, Austrian and Italian race communities that it doesn't matter where their skis are made."
<rant> The inability to find certain skis (nationwide) is an incredibly frustrating experience. I had the same problem finding some Head skis. I was looking for a certain pair of skis in early January last year. They weren't stocked by any local ski shop (visited or called 'em all) and the manufacturer was sold out. I called dozens of skis shops nationwide, and they were sold out. In early January. I followed the "recommended" practice of demoing before buying, but the skis were sold out by the time I could demo over the Xmas holidays. </rant>
Unfortunately, I suspect these shortages have more to do with the business/production model followed by ski manufacturers than it does with actual production capacity. I believe ski lines are made in "batch" mode well in advance of the ski season. The manufacturers have to estimate how many skis they will sell in the upcoming season; make too many, and you are stuck with excess inventory, make too few and you risk losing customers who may buy another ski. It would be great if the production lines were flexible enough to be closer to the "just in time" manufacturing approach adopted by computer manufacturers, such as Dell.
So do ya'll hate K2?
I wasn't able to open the article in the first post. I'm pretty ignorant of the business side of ski makers -- but am I right in gathering from the posts that K2 skis are made in China?
I know how frustrating it is to finally demo a pair of skis and the find just about every local ski shop is out of that model in the length you want. However, I think that the high end companies do the best they can to estimate the popularity of a particular product. It's not just the ski companies, but our local shops too, which have to gaze into their respective crystal balls to determine the demand for specific skis and stock them accordingly. If you travel out west you can generally find products that are in short supply locally. I found a terrific pair of a popular brand low-light goggles in Park City that none of the local stores carry. Problem solved by ordering a backup pair thru the net. In another case my daughter demoed some skis at PC that she decided she wanted when we got back to the Beltway. None of the local shops had them in the size we needed, so we called PC and they shipped them to us the same day.
I don't necessarily agree with the just-in-time philosophy of manufacturing. There are some products for which it just won't work and I think skis are one of them. Using Dell as an example doesn't work because Dell has all the parts on hand and just puts the various components together to build the box. It doesn't manufacture the components; it just assembles them, something that can't really be done for skis.
I tried ski shops nationwide, E-Bay and the manufacturer (wouldn't sell direct.) After months of trying, I finally found a shop in Utah. The problem was not with local ski shops, it was with the manufacturing/distribution model adopted by ski manufacturers. In many instances, the ski industry succeeds in spite of itself.
I totally agree with the concept of just in time manufacturing. While it is a tougher to implement with skis than with computers, it is still doable. (Skis are manufactured products, just like anything else. I think you have this overly-romanticized idea of a skilled craftsman making a pair of skis by himself using only his hands.)
At the very least, ski manufacturers should have the flexibility to retool production lines to manufacture popular ski lines mid-season.
JohnL and Snowcone:
I doubt the upper end Volkls (the ones we want) will ever be made outside of Germany. Most of the DC area ski crowd only wants skis made in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and occasionally France--forget about the rest of the world. K-2 must understand how snobby, particular, and demanding this ski market is. Hence, I doubt they will change their business practices too much. Where I expect to see some changes is in Demo days. We may get more Volkl/K-2 demo days in the region. Also, with K-2 also buying Marmott, I wonder if they will put some pressure on REI to start selling skis again in the DC market. I have mixed emotions about REI selling skis here. On the one hand, they will force prices to go down. On the other hand, they also may put some local ski stores out of business. Volkl/K-2 may also knock some competitors out of the rental fleet business.
I really don't think the ski buying public is snobby wrt a ski's "nationality." Certain brands have appeal, cachet, etc., but that's more of a factor of the marketing that they do. (I would categorize the ski mag gear reviews as a marketing activity.) I doubt most ski buyers (including upper end buyers) could tell you what country the manufacturer is based in and what country the skis are made in. They could describe the "image" of the ski and some of its performance features.
I'm not sold in general on "European manufacturing." One of my main complaints of my VW car is its reliability and manufacturing quality control.
Hate to say it, but if the choice is between lower prices and some local ski shops going out of business, I'll take the lower prices. The lost retail jobs would probably shift to the chains such as REI. I doubt REI pays any less than some of the local stores. Or the jobs may switch to web sites or other lower-cost alternative distribution channels. I doubt the ski shops which specialize on service would be affected that much.
I think there is a market for purely service-based local ski businesses, as opposed to a service + product combination. These services could include equipment buying consultation (aka similar to that provided by Peter Keelty's web site), ski tuning, alignment & mounting, boot & helmet fitting, etc. The boot & helmet fitting would not be a pure service business, since you would need an inventory of product to fit & customize. It would still be a lower-overhead operation than a complete ski shop.
Naaah, I don't care if my skis were made in Germany, China or the Peoples Republic of DC. K2 has raised a lot of peoples' standard of living in China and probaly has a bunch of happy people manufacturing their product.
MangyMarmot- K2 still makes their racing skis here; they moved the bulk of their manufacturing to china a year or two ago.
John, John, Snowcone- I took a chance on Volkl's V3 Carver a couple of years ago, no demo just figured it was a quality ski that the reviews said were for my type of skiing. I got lucky but you're right that it would be nice to be able to demo this years models and still have an opportunity to buy them before they sell out.
You may not care where your skis or anything else is made now, but you sure will if you lose your job due to offshoring and can't find another one (meaning no food on the table), which is currently happening to many Americans.
I think you have to consider the loss of competition too and what that MAY mean to the consumer. As a long time cyclist in the warm months -- I can still remember when TWO BIG helmet companies were just that -- two companies -- Bell and Giro. There was if anything an obvious competition between the two, innovation was high, and prices relatively low even for top end stuff. Then Bell came along and bought out Giro -- while innovation has seemed to remain good, prices have shot up dramatically to the point that top-end helmets (essentially a few ounces of styrofoam) can cost over $200! So, while I admit that there's still at least ONE big ski company out there to compete against, I'd hate to have an aquisition like this stuff innovation, cull product lines (reduce consumer choice) and basically raise prices...
So I remain skeptical that this is a good thing for those of us that buy skis. Now if you are an investor in K2, you might think otherwise!
I agree that over-consolidation in an industry can hurt the consumer. Seems like there are still a lot of competitors to K2/Vokl:
Fischer (or Phischer)
I'm not certain if any of the above own one another and thus, are not really independent.
In recent years, speciality/boutique/micro-brew ski manufacturers have emerged such as Stockli, Armada, AK Ski, Line. I know there are some custom ski manufacturers out there.
I certainly agree that off-shoring, globalization and market shifts can cause employment disruptions, especially for those who live in more rural or "one-company" areas or those who have limited skills/education. I also believe that our government needs to have a better safety net for these disruptions, especially wrt health care benefits.
That said, I have not been immune to employment disruptions in my own life. I can recall at least four times in my life (43 yo) where I've lost my job due to a RIF or the company going under. (I'd have to consult my resume to give you an exact figure.) Further, I was never able to find a job in my graduate field due to an industry recession in the mid-80's (Microelectronics). I have switched career fields three times in my life and have contemplated switches numerous other times. I've taken pay cuts because of it and have been unemployed or under-employed. My current field, software engineering, is one of the areas facing a perceived threat of off-shoring. I pretty much was forced to move to the DC area for economic reasons from an area where I grew up and had plenty of friends and family. Fortunately, I've grown roots here.
So be aware that those of us who support globalization or do not care where our skis are made have not been immune to the disruptive effects of lost jobs.
(And before I'm type-cast, I think our current President is a loser-boy.)
Realistically, I don't really care who makes skis. The technology is the same everywhere, it is just a question of feel and philosophy. If you want something different try http://www.clawskis.com
.. they make the most quiet and damp skis I have ever skied on. But you know what ... upper end skis are like BMW ... they have a certain following and tradition
that everyone in the biz will protect because it is the indentity of the product. Who cares where the money comes from. Mercedes Benz ain't no different because Chrysler bought a chunk of them. THE END!
Mercedes Benz ain't no different because Chrysler bought a chunk of them.
Ummm, what happened is the exact opposite of that. The "merger of equals" amounted to a takeover of Chrysler by DaimlerBenz. The company was removed from the S&P 500 for the reason that it is no longer an American company.
Take a look at
"Kerkorian sues DaimlerChrysler - Nov. 27, 2000"http://money.cnn.com/2000/11/27/news/chrysler/
Kerkorian sues Daimler
November 28, 2000: 5:24 a.m. ET
Seeks $9B damages, break-up of firm; alleges fraud in 1998 merger
NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Investor Kirk Kerkorian has sued DaimlerChrysler AG for $9 billion, claiming that investors were fraudulently induced to support the German company's 1998 purchase of the third-biggest U.S. automaker.
Kirk Kerkorian was Chrysler's largest shareholder.
To the best of my knowledge, here is a list of skis and their countries of origin. Some of this could be incorrect. For all I know, all low end skis are made in China these days.
K2/Vokl -- Germany/China/USA
Salomon -- France
Rossignol -- France
Head -- Austria
Atomic -- Austria
Volant -- USA (owned by Goode Industries of MI)
Dynastar -- France
Nordica -- Austria
Elan -- Slovenia
Fischer -- Austria
Stockli -- Switzerland
Like it or not, most skis these days are at least developed in Europe. Some of the low end stuff may then get outsourced to China or wherever but the innovation is still taking place in Europe.
Like JohnL, I'm am not a huge fan of European automobiles--they tend to be over engineered and therefore more maintenance intensive than Japanese cars. But I like their optics (Leica, Zeiss, Swerovsky), watches, and some of their bicycles. I also like their ski equipment.
I'm pretty happy with what is coming out of Europe--especially Austria, Germany, and France. These European companies seem to tap into the knowledge of their racing teams to develop some truly outstanding products. The funny thing is that America has good racing programs and mountains so why don't we rule this industry?
JohnL- I agree with basically everything said, interestingly though, while outsourcing used to typically the under-skilled & educated and those in rural areas, I think it's now starting to effect the highly skilled and educated as well. You wouldn't believe how many degreed IT pros are working as waiters and bartenders.
I'm also not a big fan of European cars. I know of several people with new WVs whose cars have literally broken down when the car is less than a year old
. Not to mention the incredible repair costs once the cars get up in age. (they do make some really neat looking, cool cars, though). My 10 y/o Honda has NEVER left me stranded, even in WV blizzards!
Lets see johnL, if G Bush is a loser boy what does that make Kerry? I know!! A good skier & a good snowboarder.He flip flops between the 2.
LOL and I ski and ride too .. that is why I am voting Kerry LOL!
Personally I've wondered about starting a company that outsourced CEOs and other top corporate positions... basically taking over that decision making but making it more efficient, streamlined and vastly cheaper.
Now back to skiing...
FYI .. for those of you slamming VWs supposedly made in EU ... well thay are not.
Most, if not all of the standard VW's available in US are made outside of EU; to the best of my knowledge, Mexico and Brazil are the major fabs. If you want a VW made in EU you have to buy it in the EU. This is also true for any number of 'European' cars, like most BMW which are fabbed in SC, USA (not the Z8 of course!). My 'Japanese' truck in manufactured in Ashville, NC.
As I understand it, you can determine the coutry of origin of your car by the VIN; 1, 4, 5 are U.S.; 2 is Canada; 3 is Mexico; J is Japan; etc. There are some exceptions which I don't remember right now.
So as far as skis go , at least for the moment my German Volkls are still made in Germany.
Well, I guess my VW's electronics, sound barrier and trunk latch were designed during Octoberfest and manufactured after a Molson lunch break. I better not drive it after happy hour.
As ski lines go, I question whether Vokls and Salomons are worth the extra bucks compared to the offings of other manufacturers. (I'm talking performance skis, only top shelf for me.) Personally, I believe the premium is caused more by marketing costs, supply & demand, and prestige pricing than caused by manufacturing costs (assuming higher manufacturing costs = higher quality.)
The truth is out there ...
Good one. I'll be sure genuflect before your statue at the peak of Mount Porte Crayon. I'll dust the salamanders off it.
(I did come across the Elvis shrine in the trees of Aspen this past winter.)
Isn't Kerry around 60? IIRC he's much older than he looks. Not bad to be boarding or skiing relatively well at that age.
If you know of any quality IT professionals (with or without a job) who are willing to commute to Suitland, MD, PM me. (Let me know that you sent a PM.) I work at a non-military federal agency (posting this from home); we are having a tough time attracting qualified candidates in the current job market. I'm not seeing the effects of off-shoring in the DC/Balt IT marketplace.
I personally believe that open-source software is having more of a disruptive effect on the IT marketplace than is off-shoring. Change is not necessarily bad; it can be very good if you adapt to take advantage of it.
I don't know of anyone personally, but I've heard it numerous times in casual conversations with people that I don't really know. Thanks for letting me know, though. My federal agency also continues to try to attract IT people. I think the very low starting pay (even w/ the special salary rate) is a deterrent to many. When I say low starting pay, I mean relative to the insane cost of living in the DC area. Kind of hard to live on a gov. starting salary unless you are from the area and live with family (like me) or commute from Martinsburg or Fredericksburg!
The government pays its contractors fairly well; you can make more in the commercial sector but you'll be working a lot more hours. (I've done both.) I'm not real current on the government salary scale; I suspect the starting salaries are quite low, but if a worker is talented and progresses up the ladder, they'll be doing well (even by DC standards) in 10 years or so. Most of the relatively senior government people I work with are living comfortably. And they have a lot more vacation time than me. (Contractor.)
Comfortable income + vacation time = DC Skiing.
I think DC area continues to weather the busts relatively well with the large amount of govt spending. I read somewhere that 60k jobs were created in the DC area this past year with a similiar amount being projected for next year or higher... however, I have nothing to point to to bolster my poor memory on this stat. nonetheless, subjective data indicates that the dc area has grown a bit every year regardless of overall US economic outlook, housing has gone up in value, demand has risen and folks find work fairly easily.
Still this has little to do with skiing except to note the large amount of disposable income we in the dc area generally have to spend on the sport. And it has NOTHING to do with K2 buying Vokl and Marker if you ask me, except that we might be slighter more informed about such matters than the average citizen.
The REAL question it seems to me as a consumer is whether these buyouts are good or bad for me the consumer. I think they could be bad in reducing choice by crowding out smaller companies... afterall is there a chance that companies pay to get "floor space" in shops, much like grocery stores (which is illegal but happens anyway)? If so, will we live in a K2/Vokl world next to Salomons, with higher prices and less choice overall? That's not the world I want to live in...
No saying of course it WILL go that way. Another take would be the vast amount of resources the new K2 can draw on revolutionizes skiing in some way and brings about a brave new world. wait, scratch that, a cool new world.