By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Louisville, Ky. — GE began production last month of what it describes as the most energy-efficient and feature-laden top-load washer in the company’s history.
The new line, manufactured domestically at GE’s sprawling Appliance Park facility, here, was developed in response to rapid growth within the high-efficiency (HE) top-load category. Indeed, HE top loaders are now the fastest-growing segment of the washer market, a company spokesperson told TWICE, outpacing and even cannibalizing sales of front-load washers, which had enjoyed a decade-long ride.
Specifically, industry sales of HE top-load washers, which sell at a premium over traditional top-load units, have increased over the past two years, while sales of front-load washers have declined over the same period, GE said.
HE top loaders employ an impeller instead of an agitator, which allows them to use less water and energy — and hold more laundry — than traditional models, while their higher spin speeds remove more moisture from loads, saving energy in the dryer.
GE’s newest model is about 60 percent more water efficient than a traditional top loader, noted GE top-load product manager Heather Koyama, and also boasts a Smart Dispense feature, last seen in GE dishwashers, which metes out controlled amounts of detergent and fabric softener based on the size of the laundry load.
The new washer is the third major platform to begin production in Louisville this year, following the opening of a GeoSpring hybrid-water-heater factory in February and a new bottom-freezer plant in March.
All three are part of a six-year, $1 billion investment in GE’s appliance infrastructure, $800 million of which is earmarked for Appliance Park. GE said it plans to upgrade all of its product lines and revitalize several factories by 2014, including “an extensive investment” in top-load washers and dishwashers, and is preparing to open another new plant for front-load washers and companion dryers early in 2013.
The manufacturer will also be making upgrades in side-by-side refrigerators made in Bloomington, Ind., top-freezer fridges made in Decatur, Ala., and cooking products made in Lafayette, Ga.
The revitalization effort has led to the hiring of about 1,500 production workers and nearly 500 engineers since January — including 150 positions for the new top-load washer line — and contracts with about 40 domestic suppliers, many of which are local or regional, GE said.
Going forward, the company will also increase its white-goods recycling efforts with dealers, a spokesperson said, and will place greater emphasis on its mainstay GE brand in a “strategic shift” that will bring more new features and innovations direct to that badge, rather than wait until they filter down from the premium and ultra-premium GE Profile and Monogram lines.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.