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GE Producing Its First U.S.-Made Front Loader

4/22/2013 08:16:00 AM Eastern

Louisville, Ky. — GE has begun producing its first U.S.-made front-load laundry pair.

The new ergonomically designed models feature a built-in 7-inch riser and extra-wide door to help reduce strenuous bends and long reaches.

GE invested more than $100 million to upgrade two assembly lines in Building 1 of its massive Appliance Park manufacturing complex here, where traditional top-load washers have been built for 60 years.

The new washer startup completes a three-year, $1 billion investment in GE’s appliance division, initiated under former majap chief Jim Campbell, which was designed to transform its U.S. operations and products.

As part of the investment, the company added more dishwasher and top-load laundry capacity in Louisville and last year began producing hybrid water heaters and French door refrigerators here. GE also earmarked some of the funds for cooking products in Lafayette, Ga., top-freezer refrigerators in Decatur, Ala., and side-by-side refrigerators in Bloomington, Ind.

“The new front-load washer and dryer are examples of what we set out to accomplish with our investment in U.S. design and manufacturing capability … producing great products with features and performance that delight consumers,” said GE Appliances president/CEO Chip Blankenship. “Our team is committed to manufacture each unit here in Louisville with the highest quality levels and competitive costs.”

The new models, dubbed GE RightHeight Design, are 47 inches tall, which places the door at a comfortable height for loading and removing laundry, and creates a useable platform atop the majaps for folding clothes and other laundry tasks.

The integrated riser removes the need to purchase separate storage pedestals to raise the laundry pair’s height. Pedestals are a high-margin add-on that typically retail for about $200, although about 60 percent of front-load purchasers forgo the added expense, according to market research firm The Stevenson Company, creating discomfort for users.

“Minimizing extreme postures, such as kneeling in front of the washer drum, was a focus in the development of the integrated riser on our new GE front-load washers,” explained GE’s human factors manager Dr. Cathy Emery.

GE said other features include the industry’s largest door; a setting that can wash and also dry small loads overnight without transferring them to a dryer; steam assist to help loosen tough stains; and reverse rotation in the dryer to prevent clothes from tangling.

The new models will ship this June in white, ruby red and metallic carbon finishes at a suggested retail of $1,399 each.

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