Most people buy these things maybe once every ten years, so it is very unusual to have people who actually know what they are looking for when they are buying (a salesman's dream I guess).
I read an interesting article about washing machines, written by a repair man. Apparently there are not many manufacturers, but the cheap ones have loads of different brands. And loads of models, which don't actually differ very much, except for the software on them. So they can have a range of different price points, as it has x many different programs so must cost $100 more. Better to go for a basic one from one of the better quality brands than an expensive one with 100 different programs that you probably won't use anyway.