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GE, Haier Expand U.S. Production

Majap powerhouses GE Appliance and Haier America are expanding their manufacturing footprints in Kentucky and South Carolina, respectively.

For GE, plans call for a $100 million investment in top-load washer design and expanded manufacturing capacity at its Appliance Park laundry plant in Louisville.

For Haier, a $72 million expansion is in the works at its Camden, S.C., production complex as the company ramps up for an expected market-share war.

In explaining the GE initiative, Peter Pepe, the company’s general manager for clothes care, said that despite the popularity of commercial-style front-load washers, traditional top-load models still comprise 75 percent of U.S. washer sales.

“Our investment in a new top-load washer platform meets new energy standards and strengthens our core laundry line with industry-leading products for our customers,” he said.

The announcement dovetails with what GE described as its largest laundry launch in 20 years, spearheaded by what it said is the industry’s largest agitator washer.

The new 4.2-cubic-foot top-loader is something of a throwback in an era of agitator-less drums, which are thought to be gentler on fabrics albeit less effective at cleaning.

GE, which has agreed to be acquired by Electrolux, said the new line gives consumers more control over their wash-and-dry cycles while improving energy efficiency, technology and machine aesthetics. Specifically, the washers and companion dryers feature specialty cycles and high-performance, one-touch settings for stain treatment and wrinkle removal, and extra-rinse and “deep fill” options that “fit the bill in terms of flexibility and customization,” marketing director Julie Muennich said.

The three laundry-pair series carries a suggested retail range of $599 to $799 per unit and will hit sales floor this fall.

Meanwhile, due south, Haier America is set to break ground this Thursday on a major $72 million expansion of its Camden, S.C., production facilities. The move will nearly double the size of the operation and add more than 400 employees over the next five years, regional newspaper The State reported.

The 300,000-square-foot facility, which went live in 1999, was the first overseas plant built by parent company Haier Group. The latest expansion “allows the company to increase annual production considerably, positions the global leader in appliances and consumer electronics at the forefront of American design and manufacturing, and enables Haier to serve the trade and consumers with reduced fulfillment time and quick servicing,” the majap maker said.

The investment is the latest step in a three-year-long production, research, design and management ramp-up as Haier prepares to shake up the market-share cart on these shores.

 Gov. Nikki Haley is expected to attend the ground-breaking ceremony on Thursday.