In the context of cordless power tool brands, there’s Milwaukee, Ridgid, Ryobi, Dewalt, Metabo HPT, Makita, Bosch, Metabo, Craftsman, Hilti.
Oh, and don’t forget about Flex, Skil, Worx, Hercules and Harbor Freight’s other brands, Festool, Black & Decker, Hart, and Kobalt. Porter Cable is still around, kind of, Bostitch too. Does Greenworks count? Klein has some cordless electrical tools that are powered by Dewalt. Fein switched over to Bosch’s platform.
I surely missed a few.
And now there’s also CAT.
How many different tool brands can the market sustain? How many choices do users need?
Market saturation is definitely a concern, but as long as there are reasons for consumers and end users to buy a cordless power tool product, or into a system, that brand’s presence can be justified.
A few weeks ago I talked about how there are many brands offering clones of the same benchtop power tools. The lack of differentiation, such as with respect to combination sanders, is obvious.
That has not happened to the cordless power tool industry, yet, at least when it comes to recognizable brand names. Most tool brands can still present a strong sales pitch.
If you ask me, as long as a tool brand can offer distinctiveness, whether through innovation and functional differentiation, or in purely marketing contexts, there’s still room for more.
Besides, increased competition tends to work in users’ and consumers’ favor. Right?
It does seem crazy, too much choice. It’s like the cereal isle in the grocery store.
I suspect that some of this is driven by one you buy one cordless tool of Brand X, you will tend to buy more in the same battery system.
When I was a first year apprentice I was given a older Ridgid 4 piece kit. Since then I’ve added about 27 other tools and 40+ batteries. If I was given Dewalt or Makita I’m sure it would be the same with those brands.
The real purpose is to get you locked in to a battery system. It prevents you from migrating to other brands because batteries don’t interchange.
Unless you buy the adapter I have decent Milwaukee M18 and M12 collection but bought and adapter to use M18 batteries on Ryobi tools for a few less used ones. I didn’t want to pay the Milwaukee tax for infrequently used tools..
Some do interchange, example would be DeWalt and Black and Decker. Of course B&D bought or merged with DeWalt. You’re for the most part right, exclusivity is the norm.
Jamie Lee Davis
If it truly benefits the consumer, then competition is good. They still sell for what the market” will bear “. My main issue is that battery compatibility is maintained within a family. Stanley has gotten us a couple times. Universal seems unlikely.
There is not competition, what is there are options to choose from.
There is no benefit for customers when there is no competition among brands, majority of those choices are about same price.
Once Lithium Ion batteries took off and then became the Defacto standard for cordless power tools – the breadth and scope of offerings really took off. I can remember when Makita was THE major player in NiCad powered tools (7.2V then 9.6V) for a niche market. With few exceptions these were not replacement for most corded power tools. When Porter Cable introduced their 12V Magnequench drill – we started to see the first writing on the wall about the possibilities for what was to come. Now cordless is the mainstream market – and probably the only milieu for much R&D and introducing new tools.
The contractor and industrial segments may be getting saturated, with folks in those segments wanting to standardize on as few battery platforms as practical, resulting in brand loyalties. But there are still many more new consumer households being formed each year. While those new households may start out buying towels, sheets, cookware etc. – they may soon get around to tools. While Toolguyd readers may be conscious of battery platforms and compatibility issues – a new apartment dweller or homeowner may only be in the market for a few basic tools – so what seems like a good deal from a smaller or newer brand may be appealing. I’ve seen Flex, Skil and Worx tool packages offered as prizes on The Price is Right – probably targeting brand recognition in an audience different from regular tool users.
Meanwhile, as others have observed in prior posts, the cordless OPE market is probably on the verge of a sea change as global and local issues (climate change, emissions and noise reduction) start to incentivize or even mandate a switch away from engine-driven tools. In that arena, while the current big players may continue to dominate there will probably be room for others.
Finally, should there be a breakthrough in alternative battery chemistry – possibly in the EV market – that translates well for power tools – we might see some rearrangement in the positions of the top gun manufacturers.
Something else to consider for entry-level systems, a lot of homeowners will buy one combo kit or drill and that’s it. They’re unlikely to worry about battery compatibility or expansion options, as for them the charger and batteries are just parts of those tools.
That’s a good point. Even my father, who is a pretty handy DIYer, looks at it that way. I think the only cordless tools he has are a drill and impact driver; other than that he only has corded tools. He’s always surprised when I get a new tool and it already uses the batteries I have.
Despite my best efforts, I have 4 battery ecosystems. I’m a DIY homeowner type.
Milwaukee M18 (preferred) 12 tools
Worx 40V due to a great deal on a lawnmower at a resale store
Black & Decker 20V (married into it) 2 OPE tools
Skil 20V (free as a work anniversary “gift”) 1 tool
I’ve been wanting a pruner/lopper, but that would mean M12 or other minor brand. I’m resistant to adding yet another battery type to my garage.
Milwaukee M18 Fuel options for pruning:
Hackzall with pruning blade
New 8″ blade chainsaw
10″ blade pole chainsaw
True, but none of those are lopper blade-style, although they do have an M12 on the way as Scott referred to.
Fair enough comment. I have been using the M18 Fuel Hackzall with the pruning blade for over a year for my primary pruning tasks. I find its cutting (with the various blade selection) capabilities more versatile than loppers given its design, which makes it a better solution for my needs. JMO. I still carry manual hand clippers and a hand saw for small branches that do not require a cordless tool. I work in the forest so I try to save battery power when possible.
The 10″ blade pole chainsaw lets me prune branches up to 10′ off the ground without using a ladder. Given I am a DIYer, I prefer not working on ladders for safety reasons when possible, and I do not need to carry a ladder through the forest. I perform voluntary forestry management activities on a weekly basis at a nearby private reservation.
I plan to buy the new 8″ HATCHET Pruning Saw. I am anticipating it will provide more power than the Hackzall for tasks requiring added cutting power.
I hate to add to the list, but Ryobi has an EXTENSIVE library of lawn tools. A seriously respectable number of tools in many categories and 3rd party batteries fill in many gaps in other tool brands at a very good price point. It’s a great second (or fifth) tool platform.
Agreed. Got into their system when a strong wind pushed over a tree in my yard and I both the 40v chainsaw (needed it that day and didn’t have many options).
I liked the saw well enough that I bought a pruning pole saw and hedge trimmer. They work well, and the price is right.
I have been using ryobi tools for over 8 years, great tools, now with so many tools with same battery operated is just perfect for moderate jobs.
Same – DIY homeowner
Milwaukee and Ridgid 18V
Ego lawnmower, blower, chainsaw,
Black & Decker 20V for edger/trimmer
Along the way, have used (and sold off) Craftsman 19.2V, Ryobi 18V, Porter Cable. This does not include the replacement of “old” models with newer models. My wife has her purses, I have my tools
I have about 40 Ryobi tools, but only one purse.
Saturation is certainly preferable to a monopoly or duopoly. Of course there’s also a lot of “fake” competition when one manufacturer markets seven different brands. Still, cordless power tools seem like one of the healthier markets in terms of competition, with TTI, SDB, and Makita all having strong showings at the top, but still facing competition from smaller or specialized companies like KKR/Metabo, Festool, Hilti, Fein, and Bosch, and other contract manufacturers like Chervon and Positec.
All it takes is one really good sale to get someone married to a battery platform. It’s why I’m basically stuck on Craftsman right now.
The ($99) 4ah battery starter pack with a free tool made it too easy amass a small collection. And I was even luckier in that those previous sales used to include the brushless tools. Now it’s strictly brushed stuff in the sale.
As much as I’m tempted to jump to a new brand, I just can’t justify the cost since I don’t use the tools for professional use. And if I’m gonna be perfectly honest, the Craftsman tools I have bought have done everything I’ve requested of them (except the Mid Torque Wrench, weak sauce).
So yeah, while it is awesome seeing all these brands and the new goodies they bring out every quarter. All I can do is sit back and wait patiently for my specific brand to give me something new. Luckily for me, Craftsman has been dropping some gems lately. They just released a new brushless V20 trim router.
Jamie Lee Davis
For most people, Craftsman us a fine brand of power tools. I have M12 and Craftsman V20. I don’t think I’m too good for them. They just need some new compact drivers.
We can only hope they clone the 840 or 845. Doubt they will ever clone the 850 since it’s an HD exclusive, but you never know.
Maybe maybe not. The atomic pin nailer and atomic recip have v20 equivalents so it’s definitely possible. What I’m hoping which is more than unlikely is for a v60 replacement that is a rebranded flexvolt. I’d bet money on that not happening but it would be a way for them to continue to give HD their Dewalt exclusive and lowes another new shiny thing.
Jamie Lee Davis
A sub 6 inch drill would be a great thing to see come to Craftsman. I absolutely love the CMCD721 ( which is a slightly de-tuned DeWalt ), but it is a little long for my taste. I love everything else about it. But, yes, some new DW clones with smooth motors and chucks would be super cool. I have a few of these drills, as well as a few CMCF820 units. Love Craftsman…… just want new drivers ( drill and impact ).
It’s been interesting to see this evolve. Had its roots in the 90s as the cheaper import tools started showing up, then more and more private labeling, and another 15 years or so and ODM truly opened up the market. Some of these manufacturers that did private labeling always had “catalog” items where they’d just slap on your label, but ODM took that a few steps further. Now any dude with enough money can cobble together a “brand” and a “company” and hit the the market with no necessary effort in R&D or long term planning/sustainability/warranty-and-customer-service down the road. Major companies and manufacturers still fiercely protect their large contracts and IP but down in the cheaper homeowner market where we see this plethora of colors and labels…it’s just easy to flush the world with products. One one hand that can be good for lower-price consumers (if not a little confusing or overwhelming when shopping) but on the other hand it creates a lot of fly by night situations and makes things overly ripe for marketing abuses. Every so often a legitimate new feature or something will come along but largely these tools remain nearly regurgitated clones even if they look a little different on the outside (pay a few bucks extra for a new housing mold, etc).
It’d be nice to see some of these little outfits actually become Companies because gap between the majors and the very-minors is huge, with just a few filling the middle. Hard to do that in today’s world, though, and the ODM approach is cheap and easy to turn a quick buck for awhile.
It’s interesting sometimes hearing folks’ justifications for being in multiple brands (or not), which plays into this. I mainly get three categories of responses, keeping a consistent platform for those that try to stick to one brand, getting the “best” version of a tool be that for quality, performance, or other factors, and for “exclusives”. Each of those can be a differentiator, which keeps all the various brands competitive today, though each brand definitely uses a mix of those differentiators and the first reason (consistent platform) to drive their brand, even across products that are beginning to become like the sanders.
Core tools in the lithium ion era (Drills, impact drivers, etc.) are I think rapidly approaching or in the “it doesn’t matter” territory. They aren’t all rebadges of the same hardware like the sanders, but many have similar performance, similar robustness, and it’s getting harder for companies to really meaningfully differentiate themselves on those tools. Sure, you can pick specs to highlight, or make some numbers larger to put on paper as being “the best” in whatever spec, but end of the day they’re all going to perform somewhat close, and are getting to the point where even though there are price/performance/robustness tradeoffs between models and brands, those aren’t really at a “differentiator” level anymore. I am speaking only in like-class drills, comparing a $50 Ryobi new-homeowner kit special to a top end DeWalt isn’t a like comparison, but the top end drills from most brands are close enough to each other that they’re not a differentiator enough anymore to trump keeping a consistent battery platform.
Then you get to “best” version of a tool for one reason or another. Like mentioned for the drills, various brands will hit various tradeoffs of price, performance, features, and robustness, and on some tools this isn’t as close as it is with drills, which makes them a differentiator. A year or two back when cordless circular saws were the rage and jumping in power, DeWalt and Milwaukee were clearly and publicly differentiating themselves, both from each other and from other brands, for their saws’ performance. That worked, because it was a marked difference from existing tools and other brand’s tools. And I think brands knew it too, because if they could differentiate their circular saw and get people to buy that, then people would probably be more likely to also buy their drill and impact driver because those tools aren’t differentiated, so fall back to “one platform convenience”.
The last category is exclusive tools, and that’s probably the most common I hear for maintaining multiple platforms. If someone differentiates on performance on a tool you use and will see the benefit, it isn’t uncommon to switch platforms entirely, rather than just get that specific tool on a new platform (though it does happen, particularly if you’re already multi-platform invested). Exclusives are another differentiator, for example none of the other big names to my knowledge have a self-branded glue gun except Ryobi. Maybe compatibles from Surebonder or 3M or similar, but let’s leave those out for a second. 6gal+ cordless shop vacs are pretty exclusive to Ryobi, Ridgid, and Milwaukee at the moment. There’s a continually-expanding list of tools that one line has that others don’t, which some brands (Ryobi, cough cough) I think use as their primary differentiator, again going back to relying on folks staying in-platform for the less-differentiated core/common tools.
Both strategies work, but I think highlight that some tools are approaching the benchtop sander territory of it doesn’t matter what you get, and as time goes on and that list grows, I think some entire brands will fall into that hole of becoming irrelevant and not-differentiated and fade into essentially being a rebadge or also-ran, or just fade into obscurity, and the market will consolidate. Porter Cable is a good example, they didn’t have anything left that differentiated them, and either couldn’t or didn’t make something that did, so were left with trying to differentiate by sales channel, which as we saw recently hasn’t seemed to pan out, so they’re seemingly fading into obscurity. Black and Decker I think is falling into this as well, their differentiator was price and availability, but have been supplanted by Harbor Freight brands, Ryobi, and Hart there who are also differentiating themselves in other ways, it wouldn’t surprise me for black and decker to have faded from the power tool scene in the next several years. Even Bosch and Maktia to an extent I think are having trouble with this in the North American market, we aren’t really getting their “differentiator” tools and/or their differentiations are fading in comparison to other brands, so it seems like their sales here are reflecting that trend. If they don’t reverse that, I wouldn’t be particularly surprised to see Bosch’s cordless in-store presence at Lowe’s turned over to another brand, or Makita’s cordless presence in Home Depot to continue to diminish or change over to other brands.
Another interesting point, some differentiators just don’t matter, or make the tradeoffs too extreme, which also hurts. I look at hand tools for this, let’s take screwdrivers as an example, Wiha/Wera/Felo/Vessel differentiate themselves on quality versus other brands. That comes at a price tradeoff, sometimes a steep one which is easy to pin the differentiation against. But some aren’t actually that much more, but for a large chunk of population, the quality differentiator doesn’t matter enough to alter their purchasing decision away from smaller price/convenience differentiators.
Good observation about Black & Decker. I don’t see very much of that brand’s cordless offerings these days. It’s still out there, but it certainly hasn’t followed Ryobi, Hart or Craftsman in ramping up the tool selection.
It seems like the brand you mostly buy into because you just want a cheap drill (or what’s that thing they had called? Matrix I think?). I.e. a one-off purchase that MAYBE you follow up with a second tool just because you have batteries vs a “platform” anyone would consciously choose to adopt.
In that context it wouldn’t surprise me if it faded into oblivion either.
B&D destroyed their brand name for professional tools when the started selling those orange plasticky cheapo drills and saws in discount stores in the 1960’s and ’70. Pushed even moderately hard and you would be sure to smoke them. The same brand name applied to their fabulous SuperSawcat soon lacked any appeal.
It was a stroke of luck and/or genius that B&D acquired the moribund Dewalt Co – finally sold off Dewalt’s one-trick-pony (the RAS business) and turned the Dewalt name into a flagship brand. B&D/Dewalt’s acquisition of Elu and their router technology also helped. Later the acquisition of Porter Cable – perhaps also helped Dewalt – but certainly not Porter Cable.
Anyway – now that B&D is merged with Stanley into SBD – Dewalt remains the flagship for small portable power tools. I once was told that the B&D brand name still has come cache in other parts of the world. Maybe the B&D brand is like Buick – selling better elsewhere than in its ostensible home market.
I know Stanley Fatmax power tools are marketed in Australia. IIRC they’re the same as Dewalt tools in other countries.
Black+Decker seems more of a home appliance brand these days. I see way more B+D branded toaster ovens and vacuums than power tools.
Stanley Fat Max V20 is just yellow and black Craftsman for overseas. The batteries are identical and can be interchanged.
The toaster oven thing – started in 1983 – when B&D acquired that unit from GE. As you say – it seems to have become a major focus of the current B&D branding.
The fact that Haier (China) now owns a majority share of the rest of the GE appliance business is yet another story.
Orange plasticky tools.
Don’t forget the lovely pea-soup green ones. Or were those “avocado” like the appliances?
I’m still confused as to why DeWalt hasn’t introduced one or two of Porter-Cable’s old designs. It’d be nice to have the tools back even if they were yellow. The 330 sander is the standout for me but they had several that were yards ahead of what anyone else was making – even their recip saw was a small notch better than the rest. These were good designs and they just let them disappear entirely – and that was the chief benefit to SBD when they bought the company. They could have capitalized on some things…but I guess they’re obviously doing well enough that they don’t need to.
One of the big issues for Black and Decker and Porter Cable is that SBD is essentially canibailizing those with a tiered model in DeWalt and Craftsman. Craftsman had a better reputation/name recognition than Black and Decker (Fred’s comment on this is great) and while Porter Cable had a good reputation, it had to compete with DeWalt and (eventually) Craftsman.
SBD has so many variations of DeWalt (brushed, brushless, Atomic, Power detect, XR, Flexvolt) that I find myself doing a bunch of research to ensure I am getting the features and quality I want with each purchase. I don’t have Craftsman (and don’t iisntend to buy any), but they seem to be going the same way (brushed, brushless, V20). It’s needlessly confusing.
It’s also pretty confusing with Milwaukee (Milwaukee, Surge and Fuel). I don’t have their stuff, so I won’t comment further on that
That sort of internal confusion is necessary when the batteries are incompatible between the DIY, mid, and pro tiers.
I do really like Metabo HPT. While small, they seem to offer pro-sumer/pro tools in all they offer with minimal internal tiering/branding. As they offer more tools, I hope they can keep this simplicity.
Sorry for the typos, posting from the phone.
SBD is doing a 3 tier approach the same as TTI, only they are doing next to nothing to push their “good” tier. And rightly so since Ryobi can pretty much go toe to toe with SBD’s first two tiers by itself and usually win.
Good – B&D or Porter Cable
Better – Craftsman
Best – DeWalt
Yep, that’s what I was tracking, too. However, It seems like SBD doesn’t care about the “good” and “better” brands. Rather, they are simply going with “good” as the DeWalt brushed tools they are still selling, “better” as the DeWalt brushless, and “best as “XR, Flexvolt, PowerStaxk and Power detect”. Some of the “Atomic” seems to straddle “better” and “best”.
What SBD could do to shoot themselves in the foot is to rely so much on the Dewalt cache and think that some lower quality yellow tools will sell better than Craftsman or Porter Cable. If they end up cheapening the Dewalt brand they may confuse and frustrate enough of their devotees to get them to jump ship to Milwaukee of Makita. When SBD was slapping the Bostitch name on lots of hokey hand tools they were not doing that brand (known for professional pneumatic tools) any favor. My thought ios that what sales they may have garnered from launching the Atomic line under the Dewalt colors – may have sacrificed some od Dewalt’s standing.
Fred, your point about SBD relying on DeWalt cachet is precisely where I was trying to go. I think the base DeWalt brushed stuff is pretty cheap and should be sold as a “good” brand. The base brushless should be “better.”
I think it would be great if the battery packs were electrically compatible, so I could buy a PC or Craftsman tool for lesser used tool, with premo DeWalt where I want the highest quality. The batteries themselves could be differentiated on those brands as well, but with electrical compatibility.
TTI has done a really good job differentiating Ryobi and Milwaukee. That’s really added to the reputation of both (great DIY and pro brands).
On another matter, it bugs me to see hand tools that used to be Stanley branded now selling as DeWalt. SBD is making DeWalt all things to all people, and ruining the reputation of long running brands in the process.
I was an early adopter of Team Red M18 and swore that was it! Then M12 crept in which was tolerable given the dual chargers. Then the 12″ DeWalt chainsaw and OMT became too tempting and I added a yellow charger. THEN the Ridgid hand vac/dustbuster thing presented itself as a solution in two different applications so I added an orange charger. Good grief.
I understand the whole market segmentation/economics of this for holding companies, etc. but in an alternate universe it would be a cool experiment to have one (1) battery platform used by most/all brands and have them compete based solely on the features/merits of the tools alone. In other words, don’t draw me in and then slack on innovation because I’m tied to your platform. Were that to be the case I think we’d see a lot more innovation and differentiation.
Increased competition typically favors the consumer, but this may not always be the case with cordless power tools. Proprietary battery connections are to blame. Power tool manufacturers benefit when customers stay within their ecosystem and continue to add new tools. Yes, there is a c consumer benefit when purchasing bare tools within their existing ecosystem. Being tied to an ecosystem may dissuade consumers from purchasing a different brand product that could offer meaningful benefits such as being lighter, faster, more powerful, longer lasting, etc. How many of us have said they’ll wait for brand XYX to launch a particular new product, instead of buying a similar or better product from a competing brand? I also believe power tool ecosystems reduce consumer’s price sensitivity. Tool manufacturers could excessively inflate their prices because they know invested customers are unlikely to jump ship. Consumers could end up paying more for a product without receiving any meaningful feature or performance benefits.
I just think about the waste generated by dead-end platforms that keep getting launched and seemingly go nowhere. Maybe the issue isn’t that big, but it feels ridiculous.
Personally, I would only buy in to an established and mature brand. Someone new launching a cordless platform is fighting an uphill battle to get my business.
Meant to post it at the time, but I don’t think those are “clones”. To my eyes you have two factories/production lines (whatever) making bench top sanders. My best guess is that they designed or bought a design and are making this stuff on contract, just dressing them in different colors as needed. This is sort of a globalization thing where it is cheaper to outsource almost everything instead if doing it in house. I think the same may be happening in the cordless tool space, where some cases may just be differnt colors, or slightly different designs. I mean all you really need is a logo, color pallet, a somewhat consistant design, and *boom* you have a brand. Now, sharing batteries is great and I fully support the C.A.S. idea but the market saturation does begin to raise questions. Like Hilti,I get that but then what is Flex? To me Flex wants to be the Pro’s choice, but if you’ve got the bosses credit card Hilti (or if you have the bosses platinum card and like to live dangerously, Mafell) is the choice. The Pro spending their own money? Dewalt or Millwaukee are established and reliable. Where does Flex come in ? Batteries? For how long because every one of these companies has teams of engineers devoted to batteries so that as good as you are now, someone else will be better soon.
Maybe Flex has better brand recognition in Europe. I recall having seen Flex brand tools made in Germany – and understood that the company had a heritage dating back to the post WWI era. I believe that Chervon (China) acquired that company in 2013 and the Flex tools we are seeing in the USA now seem to be Chervon-made. For Chervon’s part – they have produced many cordless power tools as house brands like Kobalt (Lowes) and do also have their Skilsaw and Ego brands.
FLEX GmbH is a German tool company so that would be sensible. But I believe the original company is completely separate from the NA branding, which was the result of a partnership with Porter Cable that got sold to B+D and then on to Chervon. As I understand it German FLEX tools are red, while the licensed Chervon stuff is white/black/green, kind of like Japanese Ryobi is unrelated to the bright green stuff made by TTI beyond the licensed name.
Wikipedia may be wrong – but here is what they say:
“FLEX-Elektrowerkzeuge GmbH is a German producer of power tools with headquarters in Steinheim. After producing flexible shaft grinders since 1922, FLEX invented the “Flex” or angle grinder in 1954. The company created a partnership with American tool producer Porter Cable, until Pentair sold its power tool division to Black & Decker in 2004. Black & Decker divested itself of FLEX tools. In 2013 FLEX tools were taken over by Chervon Holdings Ltd.”
The question (in my mind anyway) still remains – what connection there is between what Flex still makes in Germany (red color scheme) and what the parent company (Chervon) makes (black, green color scheme) under the Flex name in Asia
My understanding is that Chevron did buy the whole flex operation, including the red pro tools in Germany. Its now a Flex group GMBH is a division of Chervon.
I’m pretty battery platform monogamist to Ridgid cordless tools, as mentioned in another comment, because I was given a used 4 piece kit for free as a young apprentice and it was better financially to keep adding tools to the platforms than adding tools and batteries. Where I but the best/favourite tool for the job is with bench top or corded heavy duty tools. When I need a mitre saw I’m only buying a Dewalt, favourite saw for the price (only exception would be if I had the space and money for the Bosch axial glide).
I think there are alot of clones we don’t see and lord help you looking up something on amazon. Do this look for a cordless ratchet for example – there are many chinesium knockoffs but they are probably made next to someone elses of note. Would be nice to have some idea as to who’s but regardless. It gets murky quick. and I don’t know that it’s a new problem.
I’d like to see more of that EU battery alliance thing over here but so far I think metabo is the only one of those tools you can get over here. I might be wrong – haven’t looked that hard. but for me I do my best to limit my platforms but that does mean I have to live on a preimum tier brand to have the variety and use.
If I wasn’t on yellow I’d be on red fairly certain. with a gentle nod to maybe the green stuff.
I don’t look at much from the others and I’d consider flex but not the other chevon bits unless they started to market an EGO drill or such – which I doubt they will.
Greenworks has potential but gee their power tools so far don’t look like they tried – their prosumer OPE is rather good. (by that I mean their 60V and 80V lines) And right now that’s my divide. One battery for tools – and one battery different for OPE. and to be fair when my current OPE dies I’m probably going Dewalt flexvolt just because. But I’ll still cross shop – I like getting as much as I can for something so maybe it’s a EGO OPE setup – but I doubt it. Stihl intrigues me as does the Husquvarna.
In my first draft of this post, I pointed out the countless results for “mini chainsaw” on Amazon, but it was too much of a digression.
That’s a bit different, as few of those tools are backed by recognizable brand names.
I was looking on Amazon for a cordless pruning shears – just after Milwaukee teased about introducing one later in 2023. Besides ones from Worx , Amazon lists a dizzying number from unknown (to me anyway) brands like: Anbull, Burgarden, Dragro, Gonicc, Imoumlive, Kebtek, Koham, Komok, Ligo, Pikasola, Rokrou, Takuoo, T Tovia, Twings, Volt1799, and Wopulite.
At least these brand names (probably mostly chosen by e-commerce companies in China) do not appear as being meant to deceive anyone as to their COO. Some like Kebtek (Wang Supply Co.) also make one or more of theose mini-chainsaws that you mention.
I’ve noticed a lot of those random Amazon chinese brands have started aping a specific better-known tool brand. I’ve seen a few that could be mistaken for DeWalt or Makita tools except for the name.
I have one those knockoff chainsaws it’s not horrible but the battery has a really short life.
That was an interesting side quest. I don’t usually buy power tools on amazon and usually when I do search for power tools I put the brands name in front so it takes me to exactly what I am looking for so just putting cordless pruning shears into the amazon search brought so many brands selling the exact same thing. Some for $85 and some for $399, the cost vs quality analysis will have to be for someone else to find out but it was definitely eye opening.
I wonder how long before a European nation, probably Germany, does the math and concludes that the different battery platforms are wasting X% of lithium and other supply constrain components + emitted Xtons of unnecessary carbon and imposes a an interoperability requirement. I’d be curious to know the percentage of lithium cells used in power tools vs electric cars. As they push towards a 100% electric future, they will need to use the limited supply of lithium and other critical components much more carefully.
I think you should take a better look I am convinced there are already many clone battery power tools in the market, whether they are cross-brand, under the same corporate umbrella, or cross-corporate, basically the same product from different companies under different brands. Maybe it takes a little to recognize the similarities between products but I am pretty sure there are many clone battery tools on the market also.
Harbor frieght is its own worst enemy in that, they have 4 separate lines of battery systems.
When they jumped in with Hercules i thought they might make some headway in the void that craftsmen left.. now they are showing so little devotion / planning that I wouldn’t count on any single platform to exist 5 years from now.
They did just “devote” a five year warranty to Hercules tools. So if anything it seems like they’re buckling down rather than becoming more flighty.
That doesn’t necessarily mean any specific platform will stick around. The warranty allows them to replace the item at their discretion, which could be with a different tool/line.
They seemed to have settled on Bauer and Hercules the other brands seem to be slowly disappearing.
“Besides, increased competition tends to work in users’ and consumers’ favor. Right?” -Stuart’s Final Article Question.
At its simplest? That is supposed to be true. But the deregulation of Capitalist systems globally, turns this on its head, making it predatory instead. Without regulations on how many brands can be under an umbrella, or how many of the same brands can have undifferentiated product by function, it actually forms a Capitalist Net Predation Scheme. Something that used to be illegal during the Iron and Steel Baron eras during the Depression era, and Post-War Expansion era following WWI. That regulation was among the first anti-trust laws put into place to dismantle the Rockefeller and Vanderbilt family monopolies that put a stranglehold on the burgeoning Stock Market Crash, and Rebuild. It was far from being a solely American problem, really. It hit much of the Commonwealth countries and their industries the same.
What is intensely unfortunate, is that these laws formed in time to save Barons from merging to funnel funds to themselves during the draft and rationing period of WWII, yet were dismantled near globally, once the stock markets were deregulated in the Stock Market Expansions of the 70’s through to today.
What was once meant to allow those who had personal wealth, to contribute funding to starting businesses that needed Capital, turned into a monstrosity of indiscriminate acquisitions of weak assets, at above-value purchasing prices, then selling them off into extinction for profit.
We lost a lot of local companies that way, long before globalization was an issue. The sheer fact that something like (an example, not an actual victim at the time.) Dremel could be bought out at its peak action, in its prime of life, along with several dozen other locally-founded companies of similar industry type, allowed to earn peak values without interference, then have all its assets removed and sold, as a package with all its siblings, for the total value they made before the asset dump… without penalties or being called on as a scam? Is a crime… or it was. Until… high end narcotics… entered the board rooms of these financial companies and banks, free and unregulated. Their jobs were to use wealth, to make wealth, at the cost of those who actually did manual work to earn wealth.
What remains of this? Why is it relevant? This is how TTI, SBD, and all the big Umbrellas were allowed to cover so many smaller companies. In the relatively near past, those little companies were significantly larger. They were prouder, and made a lot more money than they do now. But in the wake of such destructive behaviour… now we have a relatively happy medium, or possibly a barely tolerable one in some cases. We have enough Umbrellas to cover everything. What we no longer have… is the power to choose. The majority of choices are all going to the same places, and the majority of choices we believe we have left, are necessary clones so as to give the illusion of competition, where none exists. If we had the choice they’re offering for the products, they would be significantly cheaper, and of higher quality, variety, and overall value than they are now.
A slightly shorter version: Many Clones… Not as many Cloning Vats as you’d want in a Clone Factory. Is more choice better? If there were more independent choices and designs, yes. But we’re facing far too many self-knock-offs to truly say we’re getting our moneys worth.
Many of these type of “what do you think” posts seem to be posted just to generate engagement for ToolGuyd. That’s fine but perhaps Stuart would do better to educate ToolGuyd readers on marketing and market segmentation, product differentiation, and the variety of business decision making that drives much (most/all?) of what the consumer sees in the marketplace. Like General Motors in the 1920s offering a car “for every purse and pocketbook,” this is still the playbook 100 years later, assisted by large quantities of data and highly evolved manufacturing technologies.
It’s not about the tools, it’s about the revenue streams the tools generate.
“Generating engagement for ToolGuyd.” If you mean “start a discussion”, then yes. What’s wrong with that?
This seems to be an increasingly common viewpoint.
Prior to this post, Mike wrote: “Oh good, I was getting worried that there were not enough brands.”; https://toolguyd.com/cat-cordless-outdoor-power-tools-2023/#comment-1485053
I don’t quite share this opinion, that there are too many brands already. There’s no right and wrong, and it seemed appropriate to bring the topic front and center for open discussion.
Speculating about the business decisions behind new cordless launches and retail availability is a completely different topic, and one that would involve a lot of unreliable guessing.
How am I supposed to educate anyone about facts and decisions hidden behind corporate veils?
Also, this isn’t about say GM offering similar Chevy, GMC, and Buick vehicles at different price points, but analogous to GM, Ford, Kia, Totoya, Honda, and others all offering different SUVs, and whether there’s room for additional carmakers.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with your engagement strategy. ToolGuyd is your baby and if I don’t like what you present, I don’t have to waste time here. However, you can educate your readers, beyond what is presented on ToolGuyd. You engage with the companies, you can ask them to provide you with something more than marketing fluff on how they bring tools to market (probably not an easy task as marketing droids don’t usually want to stray from the script). This reader and probably others, would like more substance about what you cover beyond spec sheets. You apparently buy/acquire a lot of tools but we only hear about the most generic use of those tools. The area ToolGuyd does excel in is deal presentation, which, for me, is the primary reason I return regularly.
You want a model to look at for inspiration? Check out dcrainmaker.com where he covers sports electronics.
Why do you keep saying things like “engagement strategy” to explain topics of genuine interest? You’re overthinking things. If I’m interested, I post about it.
So you want me to ask brands to provide insights into their corporate and retail business strategies, on-record, for public dissemination? That’s not going to happen.
For example, I had a couple of fantastic conversations with a product engineer about how they designed new hand tools after first reverse-engineering the previous-generation models, which were not well-documented by the outgoing team. The work he was doing to ensure a better and high-quality product was deeply interesting, but I can never post about it.
I had conversations last year about cordless OPE design engineering, and cannot talk about 95% of what I was told, at least not the specifics.
Project-wise, you’ll hear about something when it’s broadly interesting and time-effective to document and share about. I needed to install a couple of socket head cap screws with a torque wrench a week ago, and it took 3 different hex bit sockets for me to get it done without cursing at the tools.
(My Wera shattered the first time I used it for a past similar project, and although they replaced it after a few weeks, I didn’t want a repeat. My Proto was eating into the socket, another brand had too much slop, and so I had to dig out a Sears-era USA-made Craftsman. Although short, the Craftsman worked.)
Documenting that task would have turned a short assembly task into a much more annoying and time-consuming event.
What kind of post could even have stemmed from that? What would the takeaway be? If contextually relevant down the line, such as in a discussion about hex bit sockets, I might mention something without going too far into specifics.
Maybe one day I’ll get into project logs, but deliberately-documented projects are no longer personal projects, are they? They become demonstrative projects, which I’m not really interested in.
Just keep doing what you do Stuart, you’re doing a great job and personally speaking I love it. It’s clear you’re passionate about what you do and have been doing it for many years. So just keep going and if people don’t like it they don’t have to visit the site anymore. You’ll never appease everyone.
Thank you, I appreciate it!
What works in business, why when and for how long have been the stuff of many business school case studies. Even then some of those case studies get revisited as the wisdom of age and the perspectives that come from the passage of time shed new light on the cases.
As you point out competition between independent companies is different from companies that try to position different internal brands to meet the needs of various markets. SBD with its various brands may be closer to the old GM than many other toolmakers vs automakers.
But I think what this post seems to be more about the number of new entrants in the cordless tool market that seem to be appearing. Markets and buying proclivities constantly change – and who knows if today’s upstart will later garner a sizeable market share. It is that “hope springs eternal” thinking that encourages innovation and entrepreneurship. The odds may be against some new brand of power tool knocking off – or making a dent into the market share of the likes of SBD, TTI or Makita. But when I was buying Oldsmobiles and Buicks in the 1970s few if any heard of Hyundai. Only time will tell about which brands and companies will survive and prosper – but for now it is still interesting to puzzle about some of the possible rise of new entrants or what seems like the slow demise of old brands (like Porter Cable or Buick)
Surely some of this saturation is a façade. If a holding/parent company like TTI wants to have exclusivity deals with retailers they can accomplish that by rebranding labels they already own and pretend it is a unique line when much of the technology is likely taken from established brands. Hart seems obvious to me- Walmart wanted an exclusive tool line, so TTI rebranded Ryobi tools to fit a new color scheme and attain a certain price point.
I don’t think this is a bad thing, but having so many incompatible batteries is.
I initially bought into Bosch’s 18v platform and the impact/drill kit I bought has worked great for me. But their lack of new tools at various price points pushed me towards Ryobi for cordless tools that will see less use.
Market saturation happens, but brands need to be careful. Burning customers on dead end platforms sometimes burns them on the entire brand/store.
I bought into Craftsman Professional 20v, which was the red ones. Had a nice 4 piece kit and it did wonders for me when I started out. That line pretty much ended with that 4 piece kit. Quite a bummer as it was real nice and had slide-style lithium batteries. They disco’d the line and gave no replacement.
So the I bought into Craftsman C3. Sears was about it for me as home depot and Lowes weren’t around. Menards crept in later, but thats central Wisconsin for you. C3 was nice and vast, but again, due to the failures of Craftsman, went the way of the dodo.
I then had to have a nice long look in the mirror and figure out what I wanted to do. I refused to buy into something I truly didnt think would be here in 10 years. That lead me to Milwaukee. I now in fully vested in M12, M18 and even MX.
Now, I have a hard time buying any Craftsman tools and my Milwaukee collection is going by the month. I understand they have sold, but I’m still sour from before
Very happy with my decision. Having that same mirror conversation today….
Ryobi – confident and for consumer grade, I’d give this my recommendation
Ridgid – (cordless tools) could disappear any day and I wouldnt be shocked.
Dewalt – the only thing I’d say is safer than even Milwaukee
Craftsman (current) – coin flip, V40 seems dead already
Kolbalt – could disappear any day and I wouldn’t be shocked
Porter Cable – could disappear any day and I wouldn’t be shocked
Flex – new…. and could disappear any day and I wouldnt be shocked
Bosch – not going anywhere but doesnt seem to care that much about the US
Makita – safe and joins the group of Milwaukee and Dewalt
Metabo – who the hell is Metabo? joking of course, similar to Bosch in the US
Skil – (cordless tools, not brand) – could disappear any day and I wouldnt be shocked
Harbor Freight stuff – could disappear or morph any day
Hart – will hold on as long as Walmart likes them, otherwise toast
B+D, was the previously Walmart darling until they liked Hart instead
and many more
Lots of players – few I would TRUST to be here in 2035. When trust is involved, its probably going to be Red, Yellow, Teal Blue or Lime Green
Brand and product proliferation is irrelevant in the corded tool market whether bench or dying power hand. Cordless is all about systems and battery tech and soon enough software. Milwaukee, Dewalt, Ryobi And Makita ( and perhaps EGO for outdoors) are the safe choices if you want to minimize the risk of being orphaned. If you just need a drill, the world is you oyster. Until software makes a big impact, all we will see are small improvements in the major brands while minor brands continue to value engineer to hit a buyer’s retail price point.
This is in no way benefit the consumers. It hinders price checking. Happen to electronics years ago. Each retailer has their own TV models. Retailers figured out that they make more $ this way (despite the added manufacturing cost for the “exclusive” products) than by offering lower price and better service.
Gee – but it let’s you advertise that “we dare you to beat our prices on the exact same model” – when you know that nobody else sells it because its exclusive to you.
I find so many bargains on tools it is one of my hobbies going to pawnshops , flea markets , ebay , ect . I think its good to have more than one system and when you find a super good deal on a bare tool and you already have a battery and charger. And another place I always find clone batteries brand new from $3 to $7 is at this local Amazon return reseller business in my city. So with me its more about the tool it’s self and the good price .
I use the following systems I use:
Dremel 10.8 v
Snap on 7.2, 14.4 ,18v
Milwaukee 12v,18v,28v, usb 3.0
Makita 10.8v , 18v
and only one Bosch 10.8v
I was starting to wonder if something was wrong with me for venturing into another (4th) Battery platform. Currently have Dewalt 20V, Milwaukee M12, M18. Now looking at a couple of tools in the Makita 36v or 40V line. Each brand has their exclusive products. Having multiple systems allows you to shop for the best price or feature. The competition is absolutely a benefit to the consumer.
I think one reason must be that the true cost of the batteries and manufacturing has gone down enough and the margin has grown that it has become an interesting risk for all these companies to jump in even if it’s for a small percentage of the market.
Conclusion : prices are too damn high!
Let’s hope the battery adapter market continues to grow. I’ve stopped buying Ryobi batteries now that I have a DW -> Ryobi adapter.
i find a lot of people are like me and have multiple “platforms” . I started maybe 10 years ago or so with DeWalt and they have been good. Got a few big pieces like an impact.
But then i wanted a electric ratchet for car work and decided i would get into Milwaukee M12 (this was before DeWalt, Ryobi and Ridgid decided to make one.) So i bought a 4 piece M12 combo with the ratchet.
Its these sales that have gotten me into the Ridgid and Ryobi camps then. Too good a deal to pass up. and finally Ryobi 40v for their OPE line.
I am very mistrustful of the “adapter” market as it is not certain other than Ryobi who builds the battery management system (BMS) into the battery itself. Without that going too low a voltage can kill a battery pack.
I vote for battery standardization. This proprietary (its not really, just the case and maybe a circuit or additional pixie tricks) battery snafu just alienates potential buyers. The brand loyalists could benefit from another’s feature, but use their battery (yes, I see the legal issues and warranty concerns but they need to standardize).
We have AA, AAA, 9V, C and D cells. Smaller ones for smaller devices like 2032 for remotes, computers, etc. But any AA will go in any AA chamber.
However, like most, I now look at cost. Buy a battery, get tool free. Ok.