In fact, with toasters, it seemed the "high end" had disappeared as well ( commercial toasters too big for our kitchen). I've visited various specialty stores, and the toasters were all made in China there too. They seemed as flimsy and unpromising as the much cheaper models sold in my neighborhood hardware store.
I figured I'd just have to wait until "made in China" came to mean quality products, just as "made in Japan" is today. Or until some retailer rediscovered the value of a "quality brand". I think brands are going to make a big comeback in the next 12 months, so that's not too long to wait.
Today, however, it occurred to me that Germany, with its protected markets and manufacturing inclination might still have reliable toasters. So I changed my toaster search to include "made in Germany". Which led to this Rowenta toaster.
It's a luxury solution of course, I didn't expect to find the "missing middle" in the export market. The electric motor is silly, and the price is steep -- though in the range of the "made in China" items sold in specialty shops. So, at least on the net, there is still a "Mercedes toaster".
Update 3/31: I struck Zeitgeist. Slate has a review of toasters out now. They found an interesting mid-range option. Some of the brands seemed to be going for "quality" too ...
Update 4/14/07: At least some of the components for some Dualit toasters are made in China, though it's "assembled in England". See the comments for more details, including this excellent comment:
Sorry to burst the bubble but the Dualit (at least the Vario 20293 Chrome) may be "assembled in England" but the parts are from China. Check out wholesale site on the internet to see the product country of origin. I bought one, the timer failed after about 3 months, when I opened up the toaster the timer clearly was labeled "made in China". I think that Dualit is assembling them in the U.K. but is using "globally sourced parts" (the new euphemism for Made in China). Buy a cheaper toaster it'll be made in China too but at least it'll say so on the outside instead of on the inside.Amazon has complaints about early failures in the Dualit. There may simply be no escape from this trap. Maybe we'll all stop eating toast, or go back to the days of holding bread over an open flame.
Update 11/30/07: It's truly hopeless. Bigeejit writes in comments (emphasis mine):
Interesting post! I'm German, and I'm looking for a toaster not "Made in China". It's a nightmare.Update 3/17/09: Professional toasters are still made in the US. From comments (Drawde):
Take a closer look at the parts inside of a toaster! Even it's an European or German brand toaster like a Bosch, Siemens, Krups, Rowenta, Braun, Tefal, Moulinex one... most of them look the same, and they are "Made in China".
I believe most of the toasters are manufactured in the same one Chinese plant. Each brand just gets a different plastic cover slipped over.
Well, I'm not willing to pay a high price for a German brand toaster manufactured in China.
@John Gordon: Rowenta is no longer a German brand since 1988. Today the brand is owned by SEB Group (France), and Rowenta toasters are "Made in China", too. Even the Rowenta toaster you mention.
.. There is still a toaster MADE IN THE USA. It's made by Star Mfg in MO, actually their toasters are made in TN.Now I know what i want for my birthday ...
These are heavy duty restaurant quality units. Our 4 slice weighs about 20 lbs, so keep that in mind in terms of storage, lifting etc.
We have the ST04 model, which I think has been replaced with a newer model designation, but I checked with the rep today and she said they are still made in TN.
They can be repaired even at a restaurant repair facility if need be, you can actually buy parts for them as well! Imagine! Of course the bad news, they are not cheap.
I think the 2 slice model is around $350 and the 4 slice $550 online. We actually picked up ours used on ebay for about $150...
Update 6/25/11: This old post still gets comments. Today a vistor suggested toastercentral.com:
... the place to find and buy vintage and collectible kitchen appliances by Sunbeam, Toastmaster, Dominion, Kenmore, Arvin, Westinghouse, General Electric, Manning-Bowman, Universal and other makers from the Golden Age of chrome and bakelite...
Update 3/3/2012: Six years later, it all makes sense.