A little more than a year ago, things weren’t looking good for Brazil-based gunmaker Taurus.
The company’s pistols were turning up with safety issues, agencies that issued them pulled guns from the field and the phones were wringing off the hook with customer service complaints.
Then this summer, news broke that the Taurus had settled a class action lawsuit for $39 million that could effect as many as 1 million guns. It just seemed the hits wouldn’t stop coming.
But over the last 12 months, the U.S. based subsidiary, Taurus Holdings, has been quietly pulling out of its nose dive, cutting prices on its guns and at the same time increasing quality control on new models. Slowly but surely, Taurus says it has shrugged off its previous bad rap, offering up one of the most popular budget handguns on the market today, the Millennium PT111 G2 — Gunbroker.com lists he PT111 G2 as the top selling new handgun for four months running.
The man with the plan, so to speak, is Anthony Acitelli.
Acitelli has been the president of Taurus Holdings for a little over a year, and in that time has rebuilt the brand into a major player in the U.S. market. We sat down with the former Colt and ATK (now Vista Outdoor) exec to hear from the top dog what’s shaking with Taurus’s turnaround.
On the company’s reputation among consumers and Taurus retailers.
We’re hearing from the marketplace [on] the quality concerns … we don’t get responses like we used to even a year ago. What we did here coming through the door is to contain the quality control of the product from Brazil and we did the re-pricing action in the marketplace.
Once you re-price something and the value proposition is there, and people understand what they’re getting for what they’re paying, a lot of the things that they were complaining about had to do more with price and value proposition than it did with actual quality. If you’re selling a $500 product that the consumer sees as a $200 product, then they start picking out the things they perceive as not being of value. We’ve turned the nose up on the airplane, we’re back in business and we’ve got a ton of market share and we’ve got a ton of our customers back.
On the success of the Curve.
The Curve is a pleasant surprise. It’s outside the box, it’s different, and any time you do something that different, you kind of cross your fingers and say “OK we’ve done our homework the market’s told us there’s a place for this product.” But when you’re the innovator and you’re out in front, there’s a big swing.
I would say the Curve has been a success. The sales have been three times what we thought they’d be and the shipments are probably three times less than we thought it should be. We’ve got a little disconnect over supply and demand — which isn’t a bad thing on a new product. The market buzz and the customer buzz over the curve has been unbelievable, but I wish we could get more out the door, but we just didn’t plan for this much response from the customer.
What’s Taurus’s most popular handgun?
With the re-pricing action, the G2 has just been received unbelievably. We’ve repositioned that in the marketplace, and that kind of quality for under $200 is just unbelievable.
Those are opportunities that retailers have taken advantage of. And the big thing about the re-pricing action is we’ve fixed the quality. … We could have spent 10 years and $10 million on trying to tell the dealer “our quality is back, please give us a try,” or we could re-price the product and really give the dealers an opportunity to put it back under the glass and give it a chance. And that’s what we’ve done. We put a G2 under the glass, it goes out the door, it doesn’t come back.
On what new products Taurus is developing.
The new products pipeline was pretty much empty except for [last year’s] Curve. So part of a turnaround operation is to stabilize the patient, and we’ve done that with getting the quality to where we need it. We’ve re-priced the product in the marketplace.
But a truly game-changing product, we’re probably months away from bringing something that people sit up and say “wow, I can’t believe that Taurus has that product.” Those are the ones that are going to move the needle for the company. It’s in the works, but we’re not making toys here so it takes a while to get them from the drawing board all the way to the marketplace.