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Haier Heralds New Lines At Headquarters

New York – Haier America debuted its 2008 CE and majaps lines at a first-ever product showcase, held yesterday and today at the company’s midtown Manhattan headquarters.

Haier invited dealers, architects and the general public to attend the event, which filled the cavernous main floor of the historic Haier Building, a former bank.

In television, Haier unveiled its 2008 flat-panel LCD TV lineup, which features three model series highlighted at the top end by models with 1080p resolution. This year, all Haier models 42-inches and larger will feature full HD (1,920-by-1,080 pixels), the company said.

The company is currently developing a pricing strategy for the new lineup, but executives said they expect to have at least some details set at CES. Shipping on most models is expected in the first quarter of 2008.

Ravi Peddi, Haier electronics product manager, said the company’s objective is to have prices that are competitive with those of brands including Vizio and Olevia.

The new LCD TV line will be comprised of R, K and T model series. The high-end large-screen T series models will include the 52-, 47- and 42-inch screen sizes.

All of those will include a 120Hz frame rate and a new Motion Estimated Motion Compensation (MEMC) chip to reduce image blurring in fast moving picture sequences. Other features include three HDMI v1.3 inputs, USB input and a multi-card flash memory slot for digital image viewing direct from a camera.

Cosmetics for the large screen T series feature gloss black bezels with rounded corners and matching swivel base.

The step-down K and R series models will share the same basic feature set, including dual HDMI v1.3 inputs, but differ from each other slightly in cosmetic appearance.

Peddi said the company is studying the possibility of using the two series for specialized distribution by channel or account.

The company’s TV lines continue to be carried predominantly by regional chains, although Wal-Mart has stocked some Haier models in the past, the company said.

Larger screen sizes in both series will include the 26-, 32-, 40-, and 42 inches. The 42-inch model offers 1080p resolution while the other three feature 1,366-by-768 pixel resolution.

Smaller screen sizes will be placed in the T and R series and include the 15-, 19- and 22-inch screen sizes. Haier is offering an option of all black or all white cosmetics in some SKUs.

Haier will also carry a pair of TV/DVD combo units in the 15-inch and 19-inch screen sizes.

Haier continues to carry 42- and 50-inch plasma models from the previous line, and may decide to carry those SKUs over for another year if dealers request them, Peddi said.

The company also showed a prototype 32-inch enhanced definition (ED) plasma model, which it is gauging for a possible introduction next year. The panel, which is supplied by LG, gives the company the ability to hit lower prices than comparably sized LCD TVs, according to Peddi.

The screen size has been popular in some European and Asian markets, but the level of U.S. demand for smaller plasma sets, particularly models with ED resolution, is unknown, executives said.

Haier also showcased its Wi-Fi enabled ibiza Rhapsody, the company’s first portable media player.

On the appliance side, Haier debuted its PRTS series top mount refrigerator that represents a new, higher price step for that configuration. The unit, available in 21-cubic-foot and 18-cubic-foot sizes, and black, white and stainless steel finishes, offers such higher-end features as in-door storage bins, tilt-out baskets, spill-proof adjustable split shelves and a freezer light. At a suggested retail of $500 to $550 for the larger model (and $100 more for stainless), the product provides dealers better margin opportunities within a traditionally low-profit category, explained Warren Mann, major appliance sales VP. The platform will begin shipping by year’s end.

Elsewhere in refrigeration, Haier introduced a counter-depth, stainless steel French door fridge that can retail for under $2,000, which represents an industry first, Mann said. Shipping begins in February 2008. Separately, Haier plans to add a third draw to the split compartment bottom mount French door model introduced earlier this year.

Haier also showed a new 37-bottle, six-shelf wine cellar. The unit features Flex-Zone cooling, which allows the consumer to change the amount of space dedicated to each of its two cooling zones. There’s also a quick-chill holder, which can quickly cool down an individual bottle. The wine cellar is priced to hit a $799 price point, and will begin shipping during the first quarter of 2008.

Elsewhere in white goods was a re-designed Genesis top load washer, which gained more capacity (4 cubic feet) and faster spin speeds, but lost its protective inner lid to give consumers a better view of its oversized, agitator-less steel drum. Haier will add a companion gas drier to its current electric offering this spring. Shipping begins early next year.

The Haier Product Showcase also featured giveaways and drawings, plus former NBA starsGreg Anthony and John Starks, who signed autographs for guests. Greg Tarr and Joseph Palenchar contributed to this story.