After discussing it for more than 17 years, top floor-care executives say they may be close to solving the problem of a lack of unified standards for vacuum cleaners.
Members of the Vacuum Cleaner Manufacturers Association’s executive committee are meeting this week for the third consecutive month in an effort to establish fair and equitable performance standards for the industry.
VCMA has come under increasing pressure to develop an industry standard since the Hoover Company, widely agreed to be the leading floor care manufacturer in the U.S., went off on its own and tagged its new Futura and Spectrum canister lines with tags that rated “total system performance.”
“For some time now these amps, watts, peak horsepower (ratings) have been used in our opinion improperly,” said Brian Girdlestone, president of The Hoover Company.
The tags (see HFD April 19) rated Hoover’s peak horsepower of its floor care line as well as its features, attachments and warranty program. Industry officials say that the move by Hoover has made the need for an industrywide system all the more urgent before every major manufacturer devises its own marketing system that will further skew an already confusing situation.
“Certainly the possibility exists for confusion in the marketplace if everyone developed their own internal standard,” said David Jones, VCMA president and president of The Regina Company, a subsidiary of Electrolux Corp.
At this month’s meeting, top officials of some of the largest floor care manufacturers in the U.S. are expected to recommend to the Association for Standard Testing Materials, that some performance rating standard be adopted this year, according to officials.
“What we’re talking about here is a performance standard so that the consumer would know from vacuum to vacuum what kind of performance he’s getting,” said Pat Dowling, vice president of VCMA.
For years floor care manufacturers as well as retailers have mulled over developing a standard rating system that took into account the cleaning capability of a vacuum cleaner.
The issue has been a controversial one, because some manufacturers allege that others have positioned their models using standards that have had nothing to do with the cleaning capability of a vacuum cleaner.
“We felt for a number of years that peak horsepower is only an indication of how much electricity a motor will use at its peak performance,” said David Evans, senior vice president for sales and marketing at Hoover.
Others stated that any standard set would adhere to the vested interest of the party that proposed the measurement, possibly forcing the wholesale remarketing or redesign of a competing product line.
“The issue boils down to how to develop a standard without giving anybody a competitive advantage,” Jones said. “It would force some companies to relook at their development and make modifications.”
Up until now a large number of manufacturers have measured the maximum power of the motor in their vacuums, to position themselves within that particular product line, according to industry sources.
The means used to measure that power has run all over the map, from peak horsepower, to amperes to wattage.
“At this point there isn’t any one system that’s fair to the consumer,” said Dick Beall, president of the Vacuum Dealers Trade Association.
One source said that there will probably have to be a “double standard” for performance by category, because an upright generally cleans with more strength than a canister. Central vacuum systems have been measured by air wattage or water lift, which are completely different measurements than the standard industry vacuum at retail.
The standards issue is scheduled to be taken up at next months VDTA convention in Atlanta, where hundreds of retailers as well as representatives from the floor care industry will be in attendance.