This is nothing new.
The local Sony Centre (now defunct) sold Akai and Kenwood stereo equipment as far back as 1987.
And I remember the owner candidly telling me that, at the specific range I was looking at at the time, the Akai separates system he was selling for slightly less than the Sony, was better-built and had superior sound quality for the same price. He was correct on both counts.
It was interesting actually that the guy was less
inclined to slavishly recommend Sony than the Dixons guy down the road
Sony Europe's problem is that they've copied the other guys and plunged downmarket, albeit not to quite the same degree. The equipment they sell in Japan is of a much higher quality than that sold here; most is still made in Japan, is significantly more expensive than much of the competition and they still sell things like high-end hifi equipment with all-aluminium construction.
Here it's just generic, often Chinese-engineered and completely unremarkable brown goods. Yes, their TVs may be a cut above some other manufacturers, but some of the audio gear in particular is tat -- there's no other word for it.
I recently fixed up a Sony micro system for a friend, about two years old and the CD laser had packed up. That in itself isn't particularly unusual and the player was using the perfectly decend KSS213 series mech. But I was having a root around and noticed that the PSU was of very poor quality, and one or two of the (Chinese) capacitors were already starting to bulge -- I swapped them out as a matter of course.
Then I looked at the mainboard, proudly stamped with its manufacturer ID ... "AKI Digital". Oops.
AKI are a small Chinese DVD player manufacturer who also make cheap stereo gear. So not only are Sony selling tat as their own (in line with everyone else), but they're using third-tier garbage merchants in the process. Not good at all -- I'd expect that from Bush, not Sony.
(Granted, I think this thing only set the lad back about £40 from Argos, but even so, it's not what you expect from a premium manufacturer).