According to the local Louisville Courier-Journal, Immelt said GE's $250 million investment in the Toyota-style "lean" manufacturing line -- designed by a cross-functional team including assembly workers -- aims to expand its share of the refrigerator market to around 25 percent.
Three new bottom-mount models, which will sell for $1,699 to $2,999, will be manufactured on one shift by the end of the month, with a second shift to follow shortly thereafter, the newspaper reported.
The new refrigerators have been well-received by the retail community for their evolutionary technology, which includes in-door filters that remove pharmaceuticals from water, a hot water dispenser, and a hands-free autofill system that uses sound waves from ultrasonic sensors and proximity detectors to fill a glass, water bottle, coffee pot or pitcher.
The models, which will be marketed under the GE, GE Profile and GE CafÃ© platforms, also boast the first bottom-freezer manufactured in the U.S. to use cyclopentane foam, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions during manufacturing and at the end of the product's life cycle, GE said.
"GE Appliances is a shining example of what is working in U.S. manufacturing, and we're excited about what this new production line means for the future of our business," said GE Appliances president/CEO Charles "Chip" Blankenship.
Since 2009 GE's Appliances & Lighting unit has committed to investing $1 billion in U.S. appliance manufacturing, including an $800 million investment to upgrade Appliance Park and the $250 million investment in bottom-freezer technology.
The new fridge factory will supplant some production from GE's joint venture with Mexican OEM Mabe, and follows February's opening of a GeoSpring hybrid water heater facility which was the first new plant to open at Appliance Park since 1957.
The new refrigeration line is one of 11 new products that will be launched by GE Appliances by 2014, the company said.