The mysterious circumstances enveloping high-end electronics manufacturer Classé, part of the B&W Group, that we first reported on last week appear to be continuing. There has been a new development – a new communication about the matter to Classé dealers by owner B&W Group. But imprecise wording – perhaps done intentionally – only serves to keep the situation unclear…and dealers debating…
See what the letter to Classé dealers says about the company’s status…
Sent via email, the letter to Classé dealers is from B&W Group Chief Revenue Officer Richard Campbell. Campbell’s tone sounds reasonably supportive, but offers seemingly conflicting information, with confusing language that makes it difficult to understand just what B&W’s plans are for Classé on an ongoing basis. For integrators that are specing jobs that may take six or more months before Classé products are actually needed to be installed, it is important to have confidence that the brand will still be around at that time.
In the letter, Campbell notes: “Classé is a leading manufacturer of high-performance audio components and since 2001 has been an integral part of the Bowers & Wilkins portfolio.” This statement of fact is then followed by a sentence whose meaning is already being debated by dealers who have seen the letter.
‘Service, Warranty and Support’ Continues
“The existing Classé products will continue to have full service, warranty and support, which also includes the potential for future manufacturing to fulfill any additional demand in the market as needed.”
What, exactly, does that mean? Has manufacturing ceased? What does B&W mean when they say there is a “potential for future manufacturing?” Why do they identify “service, warranty and support” as continuing, but are less precise about manufacturing and shipping?
Manufacturing has Apparently Ceased
While we can’t say for certain, this statement certainly suggests that manufacturing of Classé products has ceased. That news, certainly cannot be comforting to their dealers. But that wasn’t all that Campbell mentioned that is fueling furious debate.
Noting that B&W constantly evaluates their product portfolio, Campbell ominously adds that as “part of this effort, we had been planning on offering a new series from Classé. After careful consideration of our New Product Road Map, we have decided, for the time being, not to pursue developments on this series of Classé products.”
Delta, Sigma, or Nothing??
Classé dealers tell us that this section most likely suggests that the company has killed off the Delta series that was supposed to be in the works. What’s not known is what this statement means for new Sigma products, which were also supposedly under way.
Some interpret the letter as suggesting all new products have been dropped by the company – and that certainly is what it suggests to us. The use of the expression “for the time being” sounds to us like an effort to soften the blow of this announcement. However, one could argue that this indicates a temporary cessation of product development, to be reinstated at some time down the road.
Are Products Rolling off the Line Right Now?
Also, consider this, we’ve heard a rumor that a new production run of existing Classé products are rolling off the manufacturing line, literally as we speak. However, this official letter from Campbell makes no mention of that.
If in fact there are no new models in the works for Classé, that would not bode well for the brand’s future. Campbell signs off by saying that everyone at the B&W Group “are committed to each and every one of you and continuing the heritage of what has made Bowers & Wilkins the world class premium audio brand it is today.”
Some dealers have indicated to us that they are highly suspicious about this expressed commitment from B&W. One dealer noted that the final sentence seemed to be more about the B&W brand, than about the Classé brand…which is where, in this matter, their concerns currently lie.
B&W Group Letter to Classé Dealers
Here is the entire contents of the B&W Group letter that was emailed to Classé dealers:
Classé is a leading manufacturer of high-performance audio components and since 2001 has been an integral part of the Bowers & Wilkins portfolio. The existing Classé products will continue to have full service, warranty and support, which also includes the potential for future manufacturing to fulfill any additional demand in the market as needed.
As we continue to create cutting edge Bowers & Wilkins products, we are constantly evaluating our existing product portfolio and how to develop the right solutions going forward for the market. As part of this effort, we had been planning on offering a new series from Classé. After careful consideration of our New Product Road Map, we have decided, for the time being, not to pursue development on this series of Classé products.
As an organization, we are committed to each of you and continuing the heritage of what has made Bowers & Wilkins the world class premium audio brand it is today. We look forward to launching a number of innovative products with all of you over the course of the next year.
Chief Revenue Officer
Rumors continue to abound regarding the situation at Classé and the hazy, imprecise, debatable language of this letter to Classé dealers is unlikely to quash their debates and concerns. We continue to reach out to the company to try and get some direct answers to real questions from dealers, but B&W Group continues to decline to speak with the media.
Visit Classé at: classeaudio.com.