There are circulating allegations that quality has declined. We need to define quality before answering, and these factors must be addressed when referring to overall quality: Craftsmanship, Materials, Technology, Aesthetic, & Value. I will use the aluminium models for comparison as they are the flagship, and RIMOWA with respect does not specialize in producing high-end, high-tech, high-quality polycarbonate luggage, especially in comparison to Ito (japan-ito.com) or Proteca so they will not be considered.
First we will address the Craftsmanship. One of the most obvious changes is decreased outsourcing; the Classic production was moved back to Germany recently, to join the Original. I am not sure if any Aluminium-alloy models are still outsourced, like the Hybrid, but this move was a good one to preserve the product’s authenticity and the move back to the roots in Cologne. Compared to previous generations, the current generation finish has not changed, the thickness of the aluminium/magnesium alloy has remained unchanged, and reportedly the magnesium content of the alloy has been increased.The finish has been improved. This a clear victory of the current generation Rimowa over the previous.
In terms of Materials, the alloy has remained the same, and as stated previously the magnesium content has increased, improving strength, ductility, and making the suitcase marginally lighter than previous generations. Increased dent-resistance is noticeable. The plastic is identical to previous generations, with increased processing for the wheels and handle parts, seams are smoothed out. Current-generation Rimowa takes this category easily.
New technology on the current generation include cushioned, ball-bearing mounted wheels and the stageless telescoping handle, however the add-a-bag feature present on previous generations has been removed for an alloy plaque. While the add-a-bag feature was useful, too many times it caused increased wear along the front of the suitcase, and added unnecessary stress to the frame, in addition to marginally reducing internal capacity. Its removal was a prudent decision. Rimowa does not have a wheel stopper like the one patented by Proteca Hokkaido, I believe if such a hydraulic system were implemented it would give RIMOWA a major advantage in the luggage market. LVMH Rimowa wins.
In terms of aesthetic, the new design has the grooves ending half an inch before the corners and wheels. The old design had grooves continuing underneath the fixtures, which caused dirt and debris to build up inside, which over time loosened rivets and allowed water resistance to falter, a clear functional design flaw that was eliminated by LVMH. The result is a sleeker, refined and modernized design. This is the most noticeable aesthetic change, with the new wheel design providing more structural support than the previous two-dimensional circular hole design. LVMH wins again.
Value is where LVMH is decisively defeated. For all the excellent qualities mentioned above, there has been a steep price increase, to the point of exorbitance. I am surprised anyone pays MSRP. At MSRP, it is extremely poor value, and sales are few and far between. This artificially shrinks supply, and by cutting out most middle-man dealers, LVMH has reduced affordability to the average customer, and as a result many RIMOWA users have been forced to look elsewhere for new luggage.
So overall, if price is of no concern, the current LVMH RIMOWA offers a superior product to previous generations. Apart from price there has been no quality drop, in fact quality has decisively increased. I have been able to purchase an Original Cabin Twist during the current recession from an unofficial grey-market channel at 60% off discount, which I feel is the correct, realistic MSRP for RIMOWA, and I would not pay more than the price I bought it for.
Rimowa remains my first choice for aluminium-magnesium alloy luggage, and Ito remains my first choice for aluminium-titanium and titanium luggage. Ito & Proteca are my first choices for polycarbonate luggage. However if you pay MSRP, Ito is the superior luggage.