French luxury piano maker Pleyel plays its final notes
Top-end French piano maker Pleyel, whose instruments were used by the likes of Frederic Chopin, Claude Debussy and Franz Liszt, will end production by the end of this year, it announced Wednesday.
Founded in 1807 by Ignaz Pleyel, a composer who was a student of Joseph Haydn, the firm has fallen victim to cheaper options offered by Chinese, South Korean and other Asian manufacturers.
The company said it was shutting its workshop in the northern Paris suburb of Saint-Denis "given the recurring losses incurred and the very low level of business."
"An initial solution aimed at keeping a certain level of production going has not succeeded," said Bernard Roques, the head of Pleyel's manufacturing division.
Pleyel has manufactured nearly 250,000 pianos over two centuries.
It recently focused on luxury and custom-made pianos in a bid to stay afloat in face of the Asian challenge. But production has steadily dwindled from around nearly 140 instruments a month in 2000 to about two at present.
The pianos have hefty price tags ranging from 42,000 euros to 200,000 euros ($56,000 to $268,000).
A Pleyel piano is made up of 5,000 separate parts, involving between 500 and 1,500 work hours and 20 different crafts.
"Given the level of stocks and the finished products, the continuation of commercial activity is guaranteed," Roques said in a statement sent to AFP.
"Other solutions will then be sought," he added.
Pleyel is often referred to as the "Ferrari of pianos" in France.
Fabrice Perret, the deputy director of the Saint-Denis workshop, bemoaned the "loss of a unique know-how," adding: "We delivered them to yachts, in the Emirates, to Australia... Now Pleyel is dead."
Production in Saint-Denis began in 1865 in a vast workshop spread over 50,000 square metres (538,000 square feet).
Pleyel shifted production to Germany in 1961 but relocated to France in 1996. It opened a new workshop in Saint-Denis on the bicentenary of the company.
Eric Aubertin, who has been working at the Saint-Denis unit since 1989, slammed the decision.
"It's a great disappointment for all those who have given several years of their lives to the workshop," he said.
© 2013 AFP