|Commodity or special design?|
I doubt consumers could actually know this data. Not with any certainty, at any rate. And do know that there are several levels of quality in carbon fiber raw materials, and that doesn't touch on the manufacturing angle.
I read an article some time ago now that detailed the enormous energy required to manufacture carbon fiber strands. (Yes- it really isn't a very "green" material to use, but that's another story altogether.) What caught my eye was the disparity in price at the raw material state for different types of carbon fiber. Prices varied from approximately 30-40% just for the raw fiber materials. Then you add resins, and then you add design requirements, labor, manufacturing costs, and final destination charges with labor to assemble the frame into a bike on top of that.
My point here is that when taken into context, carbon fiber isn't "just carbon" and there are a lot of places where prices could vary. Then you have "catalog companies".
These are Asian sources that have designs already "in the can" that product managers can look at and choose from. Sometimes there are several choices in quality that all look the same outwardly. Product managers then can specify options which differentiate their brand and specific models from other companies choosing from the same catalog. On top of this, some of these factories have set up shop on-line selling the lowest cost options direct to consumers. It's happened previously with rigid carbon forks, and now it is happening with carbon fiber frames.
|Molded to very precise tolerances in Mexico.|
In the particular case of companies like Easton, or Enve, as examples, they are doing things that just are not coming out of Asia, and can not be duplicated or copied easily, or at all. Yet, they are "carbon fiber", so you know....."they are ripping us off with those ridiculous prices".
So, in a lot of ways I think folks do see carbon fiber wheels and frames as some kind of "black magic" that isn't real, because the on-line marketers of carbon components have made folks think they are getting stuff from the on-line companies at cheaper prices than what is being charged by bigger brands. But is the quality the same? Is the carbon used lower end, or upper end? Are the processes used the same, or different than the bigger brands use, and does any of that make any difference?
To some, it doesn't. It's just about saving money for something that looks expensive. That's the "bad disco" part. And it is hard for the average folks to separate the sheep from the goats.