As I write this, our second year of COVID-19 comes to a close. What I’ll say about that is that our new employee-owners at Taylor came through and delivered more guitars to customers than ever, while under the roughest supply and shipping constraints we have ever seen. I know many people have been waiting a long time for guitars, but I want to share with you that we made 40,000 guitars above our previous record year in 2019, and 78,000 guitars over last year, when COVID shut our factories down and made us crawl back on our knees.
That 40,000-guitar increase over 2019 is in itself larger than the annual production of most large acoustic guitar companies. It’s not easily done. Our effort was met by gratitude from our dealers, who saw our deliveries in a year when the walls of most guitar stores were largely empty. It was also met by criticism from some customers, albeit a minority, who wondered when Taylor would get serious and deliver guitars, as they had been unable to get one even after waiting and searching.
I’ll admit that for almost all of our Tecate-made guitars, there is higher demand than we can fill. We made an overabundance of Baby models because we had wood for those. We built new resources to obtain and process wood for our larger guitars made there, but everything else was way below demand. It’s hard to keep up with the demand, especially in that price range.
Before we started our Tecate factory more than 20 years ago, that price range was always filled in the market with products from offshore countries, mostly Asian at the time. Our foray into building quality guitars in Tecate has been met with very high acceptance. We feel like we have served a lot of guitar players. I have to say that when I watch talent shows on television and see young people compete with their GS Mini, Academy, Big Baby or 100 Series guitars and they sound as good on TV as any guitar could, it’s really gratifying. I know those players don’t have the money (yet) to buy the better, costlier guitars we or others make, but they didn’t have to compromise their music in spending what they had budget for.
The good thing about a factory is we can serve more people. Not only players, but vendors, employees, dealers and local communities.
As for our production in El Cajon, we also hit many records. The most guitars made. The widest price range. New offerings. Our quality did not suffer but pushed ahead as always, with Andy Powers at the helm designing new guitars. I’m pleased to see what’s planned for the years to come. There’s a lot of exciting stuff. Our R&D continues as normal, even though, frankly, we could set it aside to just fill demand, but that’s not us. We know it’s no good to relax on improving guitars for the future or creating new types of guitars.
I’ve said before, and it bears repeating, that I’ve always believed in factories to offer great products and great value. There are many great luthiers out there who make really nice guitars. I’m not jealous of what they do, nor would I downplay what they make. You should own one of their guitars, you really should. I’ll also say that when we look at the most sought-after vintage guitars, nearly all were made in factories. And the good thing about a factory is we can serve more people. Not only players, but vendors, employees, dealers and local communities.
I love factories and factory-built guitars, especially ours! Especially when I see what goes into what we deliver and how hard it is to accomplish, even for really smart and dedicated people. Then, when I see that people are literally hurting for a guitar and how we managed to increase our production by nearly 80,000 guitars in one very difficult year, it reinforces what I love about factories. When you take into account the depletion of stock in stores around the world and then you add to it the guitars we made and delivered over the past two years, hundreds of thousands of guitar players, from beginners to experienced musicians, were served.
People often ask me or Kurt, “Could you have imagined way back then that Taylor would become this?” At this point, I have to say no, I could not have imagined this.