In 1985, in a campaign initiated by then CBS Musical Instruments division president William Schultz (1926-2006), the Fender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company employees purchased the company from CBS and renamed it the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. Behind the Fender name, the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation has retained Fender's older models along with newer designs and concepts.
Fender manufactures its highest quality guitars at its Corona factory in California and manufactures its mid to high quality guitars at its Ensenada factory in Baja California, Mexico. Channing Ward is the lead designer of the 2009 stratocaster. Fender also contracts Asian guitar makers to manufacture Fender guitars and to also manufacture the lower priced Squier guitars. The older and American built Fender guitars are generally the most favoured, but pre-1990 Fender Japan guitars are now highly regarded as well. Fenders built in Ensenada, Mexico took over the main export role from the Japanese made Fenders and Japanese Fenders are now manufactured mainly for the Japanese market, with only a small number marked for export.
Squier was a string manufacturer subsequently acquired by Fender. The Squier brand has been used by Fender since 1982 to market inexpensive variants of Fender guitars intended to compete with the rise of Stratocaster copies, as the Stratocaster was slowly becoming more popular. Squier guitars have been manufactured in Japan, Korea, India, Indonesia and China. The Squier name adorns many inexpensive guitars based on Fender designs but with generally cheaper hardware, bridges and electronics.
In recent years, Fender Musical Instruments Corporation has branched out into making and selling steel-string acoustic guitars, and has purchased a number of other instrument firms, including the Guild Guitar Company, the Sunn Amplifier Company, and other brands such as SWR Sound Corporation. In early 2003, Fender Musical Instruments Corporation made a deal with Gretsch and began manufacturing and distributing new Gretsch guitars. Fender also owns: Jackson, Charvel, Olympia, Orpheum, Tacoma Guitars (based in Seattle, WA), Squier and Brand X amps. The Californian guitar giant has recently purchased Kaman Music Corporation, which owns Ovation acoustic guitars, LP and Toca hand percussion products, Gibraltar Hardware, Genz Benz Amplification, Hamer Guitars and is the exclusive U.S. sales representative for Sabian Cymbals and exclusive worldwide distributor of Takamine Guitars and Gretsch Drums.
In February 2007 Fender announced that it would produce an illustrated product guide in place of its traditional annual Frontline magazine. This change was made in large part due to the costs associated with paying royalties in both print and the Internet. With the new illustrated product guide, this removed print issues. The new guide contains its entire range of instruments and amplifiers along with color pictures and basic specifications. The New Fender Frontline In-Home will be produced during the year, keeping customers up to date with new products. These will be available through guitar publications and will be directly mailed to customers who sign up to the Fender website. As well as these printed formats, Fender Frontline Live was launched at the winter NAMM show in January 2007 as a new online reference point, containing information on new products and live footage from the show.
The German distribution for Fender instruments is hosted in Düsseldorf.