Meade Looks to a Brighter Future

Meade Instruments, the world's largest manufacturer of telescopes for amateur astronomers, is the only company in the industry whose stock is publicly traded. This makes it the only one required by law to disclose financial information to consumers. In mid-October Meade released results for the quarter ending August 31st. The numbers show a decrease in revenues relative to the same period last year and foretell a likely operating loss for the year as a whole — driven in part by softness in high-end telescope sales to serious backyard astronomers.

Meade Exhibit
Meade Instruments' exhibit at the May 2006 RTMC Astronomy Expo drew large crowds of stargazers eager to check out the company's new 20-inch RCX400 telescope on a massive MAX German equatorial mount. Just 18 months later, Meade is suspending production of the telescope and mount indefinitely.
"We're clearly concerned," Meade president and chief executive officer Steve Muellner told Sky & Telescope, but "we can achieve profitability by further reducing our cost structure and introducing innovative and exciting products to the marketplace." A statement accompanying the mid-October financial report outlined general plans to reduce the workforce at Meade's Irvine, California, headquarters and to shift much of its telescope manufacturing from there to a "lower-cost location."

This week more details of Meade's plans became available. In an e-mail response to questions posed by Sky & Telescope, Muellner said that all high-end manufacturing will be moving to the company's international partners.

During this transition the production of some telescopes will be temporarily suspended, and a few other models will be discontinued. Meade said it anticipates no interruption of its popular 8-, 10-, and 12-inch LX200R telescopes as well as its 8-inch LX90GPS Schmidt-Cassegrain reflectors. The 10- and 12-inch LX90GPS models will remain in production to fill existing orders and then be suspended until Spring 2008. Likewise, existing orders for 14- and 16-inch LX200R telescopes will be filled, and then production will be halted until the second half of 2008 — except for the fork-mounted 14-inch, which will be suspended indefinitely. The company's heavy-duty MAX Mount, and all sizes of its fork-mounted RCX400 telescopes, will also be suspended indefinitely. The only instruments to be discontinued outright are the Calcium-K (ultraviolet) models in the company's Coronado line of solar telescopes and filters.

According to Muellner, Meade's aggressive development and scheduled release of new products will not be affected by any of the manufacturing moves taking place. "Way ahead of this time next year," he predicts, "this will all be a distant memory."

15 thoughts on “Meade Looks to a Brighter Future

  1. Dennis M Driscoll

    I think this makes sense, They are losing sales in High End telescopes mmm. Why? Maybe it because for the last couple of years their service has been terrible. People cant get parts etc. So their solution is to cut down labor cost. Not very smart are they.

    Never do they mention the fact that most customers of High End Sales are fairly educated people and we will not invest our money in a product knowing we cant get support.

    There are many small telescope manufactures out there that are breaking the backs for the customer. I know Meade won’t get any more of my major purchases. For the last 6 months I can’t even get a RA Motor for my LXD 75 Mount.

    To the stock holders of Meade Sell it now or get involved and make Meade more accountable with customer service and then maybe you will get some more high end sales or, just cater to the department stores. You can’t have it both ways and not give support when needed.

    Dennis Driscoll
    heavyd2@charter.net

  2. ProfAstro

    My school, within 15 minutes driving time of Meade headquarters, has about a dozen of their telescopes including an observatory-mounted 16″ LX-200 that barely works because of a bad circuit board. Requests to PURCHASE a new one were denied in that “this is not a supported model any longer.”

    This is typical of the response we receive for any cutomer support from Meade. I’ve experienced the same difficulties in getting my personal telescope repaired. They are not a buyer-friendly company, prefering to say “no” as a first response for help.

  3. Thomas Marxmiller

    As a very happy owner of a Meade 10″ SCT, I am saddened to read that they are moving manufacturing overseas. Being a part of a small business, I can tell you that it is critical to provide top notch customer service, without it, you are slowly sinking. All decisions regarding customer service eventually come from the top; so I would suggust a change in attitude or a change in leadership is needed there. Meade provides a great product at a reasonable price, is the most innovative and dynamic manufacturer of amature telescopes, and does this while often getting the snub from the scope snobs out there. But without customer service, it is pretty hard to defend them.

  4. Ed

    “This time next year”, you can probably send complaints about Meade’s phantom new product line to China. Make sure you get it all down in Mandarin… And Mexico??? You’re better off donating your Meade product to a school down there because when it goes across the border for repairs, and that will happen probably sooner than later, the chances of getting the same scope back, repaired or not, are slim to manana. Better check at that school anyways. It’ll probably be there. Let’s not forget all those good customers who purchased Meade’s 3 or 5 year Sky Assurance Plan. The only “Assurance” you have is that your money is probably funding the retirement plans of Meade’s current management and of course it’s board of directors, past and present. Oh, what a noble sacrifice you lucky people have made by showing the younger generations how wonderful it is to support our captains of industry, ala Enron!

  5. Greg Simpson

    I’l certainly bet that “lower cost location” will be either Mexico or China. It sure looks as if the notoriously aggressive, business-wise, Meade Instruments has been expanding too fast and not keeping an eye on our poor economy. I can’t say I feel sorry for them, considering their business “philosophy” of buyouts (Coronado) and lawsuits, patent infringement claims, and attempts at being the sole manufacturer of SCT telescopes in the US (various Celestron take-over attempts).
    I’m proud to be a long-time Celestron owner and supporter. They’re the company that Meade should model themselves upon!
    As to their “higher end” telescopes, does anyone else think many of those products are clunky, boxy and just plain ugly, while Celestron’s comparable scopes are pleasing in their appearance and ergonomic design? My wife, who sits at a computer all day, says Meade scopes remind her of PCs, while Celestrons are Macs!

  6. Henry Neeser

    I have a Meade 10 inch SCT and think it is great. Good for them, I hope they do move to Mexico or China, why shouldn’t they? Every other mainstream American produced product is no longer produced here, all in the name of huge profits! I don’t expect to use Meade products much longer, I have found a new love,,,, APO’s, and Meade doesn’t have any available due to stupidity……

    I have dealt with their customer service, it is iffy at best. Replacement parts are also hard to come by. I bought a mount on the rear of the cell DC port, and it didn’t fit, Meade insists that it was the way I was mounting it on. there is only one place for it to mount and the screw holes were not located as stated in the instructions. they have some issues with Auality Assurance, and nothing more than that. Take care of the quality issues and they will start selling again..

    scorpius_h

  7. Jay

    I agree with most of the people that have responded to this news. The sad thing is that Meade will not take our advice because the people in charge have no humility whatsoever, and they are greedy like all larger corpoate business. Allthough I have a 10″SNT and a 6″ refractor, the next scope I buy will not be a Meade because their quality is overrated. I have had to replace the focusers on both scopes because of their poor quality, I expect better for the money I paid and will pay for in the future. Good redience to you Meade, unless you start taking advice from the people that use your products or are real astronomers. LISTEN TO THE TRUTH. But I expect as I have pointed out already that Meade will not listen to the truth bvecause it hurts too much and I doubt they will read these comments anyway.

  8. Richard

    Better late than never. I knew I wasn’t the only customer with problems. Meade has to have the worst end result customer service I have ever dealt with. I have been a little gullable waiting for return emails and phone calls I guess. I haven’t been able to properly align and use my scope with Autostar in the past year. Excuse after excuse, try this, no, try that. We’ll have a supervisor or manager call you. Your replacement part is on the way, No it’s not.Sounds like a lemon and they should replace the scope! I don’t know anything about it. I’ll find out and call you back. Vicious circle. Sound familiar? If it wasn’t a gift from my sons, I’d send it back to them in a thousand pieces

  9. Michael P

    I bought a Meade 12″ LX200 GPS in Sept 2004. Not bad design, and maybe ok for the price. Construction quality seems marginal at best. We called Meade twce this year, once for advice on re-flashing a misbehaving handbox and again today for a dead microfocuser. The reflashing advice was eventually good, when the only man who knew what to do was found. The procedure was simple enough and could have been included in a properly written manual. Firmware, particularly if it concerns changing ephemeris should be expected to be updated. IMHO, users should not have to dig around on a CD or call the factory.
    Today we called again. This time a delightful woman told us about how to attach a finder when we asked about a microfocuser. She had no idea about the product. All she could do was offer a phone number of a local reseller. The 2004 LX200 is now officially unsupported except for
    While this may be good for 3rd party “improvements” ventures such as Peterson, JMI etc, th

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