As Ben posted yesterday, Hitachi Power Tools has changed their name to Metabo HPT.
This morning, I received a press release from Metabo, basically saying that the name change won’t affect their brand at all.
On March 12th, Metabo’s sister company Hitachi Koki USA., Ltd announced that they will be changing their name in North America from “Hitachi Power Tools” to “Metabo HPT”. This change reflects the new partnership with KKR. This does not affect the original Metabo brand at all.
The original Metabo brand is well known as a supplier of professional tools for industry and craftsmen. Metabo is famous in the US market for its range of outstanding angle grinders which are recognized as the industry’s best in terms of power, productivity, durability, quality and safety. They’re also a worldwide leader in battery technology with the LiHD platform. The Metabo brand will continue to focus on Industrial Metalworking, Building Trade and Renovation, MRO, Concrete finishing, welding supply markets and does not sell its products through the home centers. Sales forces and marketing initiatives will be kept separate, as will the company headquarter in West Chester, PA.
“The Metabo Industrial brand will continue retain to its strategy and the focus on professional users and trade partners. We will continue to come up with innovations like our new LiHD battery pack with 8.0 Amp-Hour capacity and a power of 1,400 Watt (12 Amp corded equivalent). That’s a new world record for 18-volt batteries with 10 cells”, says Joseph S. Smith, President and CEO at Metabo US.
Hitachi’s name change wasn’t a hasty decision. Personally, I think that Metabo HPT might lead to some confusion in the future. What happens when (not if) users think that Metabo and Metabo HPT tools, battery packs, and chargers are interchangeable? When they find out they’re not, which will be the hard way for some – after a purchase – those users might be soured on the brand.
There are benefits to the name change. The biggest impact will be that Metabo HPT can operate as they choose to. Well, Metabo HPT in North America, and HiKoki overseas. When a company licenses a brand name, such as if they continued under Hitachi Power Tools, they would be subject to guidelines and limitations imposed by the Hitachi brand.
I’m sure they debated long and hard about whether to go with Metabo HPT or HiKoki here.
With Metabo compelled to send a press release reminding everyone that they’re not affected by the Hitachi brand name change to Metabo HPT, I get the feeling that they will be impacted by the name change, in some way or another.
A few years ago, Dewalt’s new cordless platform was called 18V XR in Europe and everyone else outside North America, and 20V Max here in the USA, Canada, and Mexico. The explanation was that Dewalt 18V and Dewalt 18V XR would be too confusing for Americans and their neighbors.
I think we all realized that 20V Max is all about 20V sounding bigger and better than 18V. I tried to give Dewalt the benefit of the doubt, but the fact that there’s still a lot of confusion about this has made it hard to believe this wasn’t a major reason behind the decision.
Anyway, my point is this – Europeans didn’t seem to have any trouble seeing the difference between Dewalt 18V tools and newer 18V XR Li-ion power tools. Surely if they weren’t very confused by this, then we won’t be confused by Metabo vs. Metabo HPT. Right?
Eventually, Dewalt did come out with an 18V to 20V Max adapter.
Here’s the potential problem, though.
Here’s a Metabo 18V battery pack.
Here’s a Hitachi battery pack.
Here are Hitachi tools with MultiVolt battery packs.
And a Metabo drill with an attached battery pack.
There are a lot of differences. But there are similarities, in that both batteries use slide-style battery packs.
Technology is bleeding between both brands. Word is that there’s a Metabo Triple Hammer impact on the way, building upon Hitachi’s technology.
This Metabo and Metabo HPT branding will get complicated. My first instinct is to think there are some compatibility ties between the brands, similar to how Dewalt 20V Max XR is now used for their more brushless tools, or Milwaukee M18 and M18 Fuel is a differentiator there.
My thoughts are that there will have to be some sort of adapter, or that the Metabo HPT brand name will be short-lived here.
The intent is to leverage a familiar name that can help propel the brand forward.
In a world of new branding acronyms, suffixes, and labels, will Metabo HPT cause more confusion? Or will it cause just a little confusion, balanced by reasons why HiKoki wasn’t a good choice for our market?
There’s Metabo LiHD battery packs, Metabo Ultra-M LiHD battery technology (as mentioned in the press release).
Will users, or more importantly – potential customers, be confused by Metabo HPT, Metabo HPT Multi-Volt, and any other branding coming over from the Hitachi Power Tools side of things?
My increasing worry is that it will be a big mess, until or unless there is the creation of a battery-tool commonality. That is, the best thing that could happen will be if Metabo and Metabo HPT somehow came out with either a common battery interface, or a way to use either brand of batteries with either brand of tools. But if that were to happen, what happens to existing users of either platform?
To avoid potential confusion, or at least to the best of their ability, Metabo HPT will have to make efforts on product packaging and in online descriptions. Metabo might eventually have to do so as well.
To help you see how I’m seeing things, imagine if Stanley Black & Decker rebranded some of their brands. Let’s say Porter Cable became Dewalt PC. What kind of chaos do you think would follow? Exactly.
Apex Tool Group has brought several of their hand tool brands under Crescent branding. Snap-on does this. “Blackhawk by Proto” is another example. But those are hand tools. With cordless power tools… I don’t think there’s just the potential for confusion, I think that confusion will be all but guaranteed.
Let’s say you’re an industrial user flipping through a catalog. You add some Metabo tools and Metabo HPT tools to your next order. Maybe several of them, if you supervise a couple of technicians or teams. Wouldn’t you expect for those tools, batteries, and chargers to all be compatible with each other?
There are strengths behind the new brand name, and good justifications behind the decision. I’m sure there are good reasons why the HiKoki brand name was avoided here.
The brand was Hitachi Power Tools here, or just Hitachi, and known as Hitachi or Hitachi Koki elsewhere. Maybe it was considered that HiKoki was too different for our market, that maybe creating a brand new name would have even been a better call.
One cannot say that the HiKoki isn’t “English-sounding” enough. Well, you can. But look at brands like Ryobi and Makita. Why couldn’t HiKoki enjoy similar acceptance?
I keep coming back to the same idea in my mind. What if Porter Cable became Dewalt PC? I can’t say for sure what the public perception will be in response to Metabo and Metabo HPT confusion. But I can tell you with absolute certainty that Dewalt and Dewalt PC would be bad – real bad.
It’s easy to believe that someone will want to buy Metabo HPT 3.0Ah battery packs for $40 to pair with their Metabo tools. Or maybe they want a Metabo HPT tool and buy the bare tool option (if there is one) to go with their Metabo tools.
Confusion can be avoided, but it’ll take a lot of work. In the short-term, that means effort that could be better spent on promoting tools and cutting-edge cordless technologies will have to be spent on emphasizing that Metabo and Metabo HPT are not [currently?] cross-compatible or connected in any way.
If my Dewalt and Porter Cable example doesn’t work, let’s pretend that Milwaukee Tool purchased Makita Tools, and rebranded them Milwaukee MPT, without changing anything about either brands’ tools or battery packs.
I had some concerns about the Hitachi Power Tools to Metabo HPT name change, but this mornings Metabo press release really drove it deep.
Metabo not affected by the Hitachi brand name change to Metabo HPT
Unfortunately, I have the strong feeling that this will be their opinion, and that this name change absolutely will affect both brands. It will be very interesting to see what happens. I’m hoping for the best, but it’s clear there are many challenges ahead.