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GE Changing With The Times

LOUISVILLE, KY. — While big changes come slowly in the white-goods industry, GE Appliances keeps a steady eye on consumer trends with an eye toward the future.

A recent study by the leading majap maker sees color, design, connectivity, ergonomics and place of manufacture as key considerations for consumers going forward.

Although stainless steel will remain the preeminent finish, with 35 percent of appliances sold keeping their metallic covering, GE research sees consumers looking for something a little different. To meet this demand the company rolled out its Slate finish, which is a warm grey, low-gloss metallic hue. The company is so certain this trend will take hold that it doubled the number of refrigeration and cooking models available in that option.

Design patterns are also shifting. GE cited a report by the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) that noted people are moving away from the traditional look to a transitional style. This entails a blend of contemporary and traditional looks, combining simple lines with an overall elaborate design.

Going forward connectivity will be key and GE said products like its wall ovens will have remote access via iOS and Android apps.

Another small, but important, issue is lighting. GE is moving away from using compact fluorescent lights as more energy-efficient LEDs become more popular.

An aging U.S. population is also having an impact on how GE designs its products. With the number of people 65 and older expected to hit 72.1 million by 2030, the company has already taken into consideration declining range of motion, strenuous bends and not having to reach deeply into a device as part of its design philosophy.

The final trend that GE is following is American’s desire to buy products stamped “Made in the U.S.A.” The company cited a Gallup poll that showed 60 percent of Americans would pay more for a domestically made product. So in 2011 GE committed to invest $1 billion to revitalize its U.S. appliance business, resulting in five new appliance lines that are being made right here at home.