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Generac and Kohler in power struggle over generator claims

Consumer Reports News: October 15, 2012 01:08 PM

Besides being located less than 75 miles apart in Wisconsin, Generac and Kohler have another thing in common. Both had their hands slapped last week by the National Advertising Division for claims they made about residential generators. NAD is a watchdog group for the Better Business Bureau and the advertising industry.

Following our blog about the NAD's decision that recommended Generac discontinue some promotional claims and modify others, the NAD called Kohler to task for telling its customers about the decision—and reportedly forwarding that blog post as well. "The procedures that govern the self-regulatory system and the participation agreements signed by all parties make clear that parties are prohibited from using NAD decisions for promotional purposes," said the NAD's press release. Yet two days later, the same investigative unit chided Generac for doing the very same thing.

The companies' disagreements in the realm of marketing claims might now die down, but the parties' legal dispute remains in high gear. It stems from two years ago, when Generac sued Kohler in federal court for patent infringement—related to Generac's method of conducting a weekly exercise of a stationary (standby) generator. Both companies' stationary generators, as shown in our Ratings for generators, run this routine procedure automatically.

By comparison, continuing court action regarding these and other charges, including counterclaims by Kohler as to the scope of Generac's patents, make the NAD action look like a schoolyard tussle.

In Consumer Reports generator tests, a stationary Kohler, $3,200, trumped an $1,800 Generac in both the delivery and quality of power. But both models made our list of top picks and the Generac was a CR Best Buy. We also named a $670 Generac portable generator a CR Best Buy. Two Troy-Bilts and a Honda also made our list of recommended portable generators.

Ed Perratore


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