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Innovative Majaps Mark Intl. Builders Show

This is not your mother’s refrigerator. Or washer. Or, for that matter, coffeemaker.

Within the last several years, major appliance manufacturers have turned traditional white-box concepts on their collective ears as new technologies have infused the industry, generating consumer excitement and sales.

That trend continues as evidenced by new introductions at last week’s International Builders’ Show (IBS), held here (See part 1 of TWICE’s coverage in the Jan. 19 issue, p. 42.)

Perhaps making the biggest majap splash in terms of outside-the-box offerings and sheer booth space was LG Electronics. Its IBS headliner was a 26-cubic-foot, side-by-side refrigerator replete with built-in 13.5-inch cable-ready TV, NTSC tuner, AM/FM radio, and speaker pair.

The $3,000 retail unit, available this April, also features LG’s customary multi-point cooling system, digital temperature sensor controls, fast-freeze drawer and digital LCD display.

“The kitchen is fast-becoming the family room for today’s consumers and dinner is the one meal the entire family tends to spend together,” said Simon Kang, president of LG’s U.S. home appliance division, which inspired the development of the TV refrigerator.

Other kitchen conveniences from LG include a line of combo counter appliances that meld 1.2-cubic-foot microwave ovens with coffeemakers, radios and voice recorders, and toasters.

LG also debuted its next-generation direct drive, front-loading Tromm washer and companion dryer. This pair features upfront controls that, absent the back panels, allow the units to be stacked or to fit more readily beneath counters or cabinets. The 3.72-cubic-foot washer and 7.3-cubic-foot dryer are available in white and begin shipping in March. Suggested retails are $999/$1,099 and $799/$849, respectively.

Elsewhere at IBS, Maytag staged the trade show debut of its innovative Neptune Drying Center. First shown privately to the trade last year, the unit pairs a tumble dryer with an upper drying cabinet that minimizes shrinkage, quickens the drying process, reduces wrinkles, eliminates odors and refreshes clothes. Maytag accomplishes this with a patented swaying rod that gently rocks clothes as air circulates around them, while a dryer-sheet caddy allows fragrance to be added to any cycle.

What’s more, specially designed hangers allow the cabinet to accommodate upward of nine items at once, or consumers can opt for flat drying on removable mesh shelves than can hold up to five articles of clothing. All told, the system offers 24.3 cubic feet of total drying space, the company said.