Why Pioneer struggled in the States

While the questions continue to fly about the decision by Pioneer to pull the plugs on its display business, some interesting market analysis from the USA shows just why the company struggled to make headway even in a country where the big-screen TV is king.

Pulled together by trade journal TWICE (This Week in Consumer Electronics), the research and opinion from industry analysts shows that not only was Pioneer's presence in the US plasma market shrinking fast last year, but also that even high-earners are tight-fisted when it comes to buying big-screen TVs.

In the last quarter of 2008, Pioneer achieved just 2.6% of a fast-shrinking plasma market in the States, down 4% on the previous quarter and 9% on the same period in 2007, according to analyst DisplaySearch. That put it in fifth place in the US plasma sales stakes, behind the likes of Panasonic and Samsung.

Even well-heeled US consumers weren't too sold on premium plasmas

But research by analyst iSupply suggests it's unlikely the company's premium-priced Kuro plasmas were going to achieve much traction in the US market, even among high-earners. June 2008 figures suggested that 60% of those earning $200,000 (about £140,000) wouldn't spend more than $1500 (just over £1000) on a flat-panel TV.

And by December 2008, those same high-earners were aiming to spend $1000 (£700) or less on a flatscreen.

That provided a serious problem for Pioneer, whose Kuro 50in TV, even in the highly competitive US market, carries price-tickets starting at around $2500 (£1700), discounted from $4000 (£2750).

Industry analysts reckon the bigger players will take up any slack left by the impending departure of Pioneer from the US TV market, but it seems the company isn't alone in failing to make money out of plasmas in the USA.

Stateside manufacturer Vizio also announced that it's dropping plasma screens from its range, having added them last year. It says the plummeting prices of LCD screens make them a much more attractive choice for consumers in the current economic climate.

Andrew has written about audio and video products for the past 20+ years, and been a consumer journalist for more than 30 years, starting his career on camera magazines. Andrew has contributed to titles including What Hi-Fi?, GramophoneJazzwise and Hi-Fi CriticHi-Fi News & Record Review and Hi-Fi Choice. I’ve also written for a number of non-specialist and overseas magazines.