By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Irvine, Calif. – Mitsubishi Electric Video Sales America (MEVSA) Monday confirmed reports that it notified service centers it has halted the manufacture of rear-projection TVs and told TWICE that it has nearly completed phasing out inventory.
Max Wasinger, MEVSA executive VP of sales, said Monday that there is “minimal inventory left in stock,” and there are no plans for special close out pricing to follow.
“All retail dealers will need to sell out their current inventories of 73-, 82-, 92- DLP TVs and 75- LaserVue DLP TVs” Wasinger said.
Wasinger and fellow long-time MEVSA executive Frank DeMartin will stay on with the company. Wasinger becomes Mitsubishi Professional Products and solutions executive VP, he said.
“The decision to exit the category was based on lack of profitability in the big-screen TV business,” Wasinger explained. “MEVSA will honor all product warranties. Consumer relations will continue to support consumers and dealers’ product service related needs.”
From a consumer electronics perspective, Mitsubishi will continue to offer a variety of front projectors, but the rear-projection TV business, which the Mitsubishi was largely responsible for putting on the map back in the seventies, is virtually finished as a mass market consumer product category, at least for the time being.
The handwriting was on the wall when the company stopped introducing revised model updates last year, relying on 2011’s super big screen sets to carry through the year. Instead, it continued offering 73-, 82- and 92-inch sets at a dollars-per-inch value compared with flat panel sets.
But this year, the arrival of bargain behemoth LCD sets of 70 to 90 inches from Sharp and others left little breathing room for rear-projection technology, which still required bulb replacements and suffered from weaker viewing angles. Only Mitsubishi’s carryover 75-inch LaserVue DLP set, which was originally plagued with introduction setbacks, eliminated the need to replace bulbs every few thousand hours. But despite offering superior red color reproduction, that model had a difficult time competing at an over $5,000 street price.
Market research firm Quixel Research told TWICE that it estimates full year sales of 118,000 sets for 2012, down from 210,446 units in 2011.
The DLP rear-projection category sold more than 2.2 million units at its peak in 2006. Although it was wasn’t the first in the rear-projection TV market, Mitsubishi ended up being the best and last mass market manufacturer of the technology.
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