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Haier Calling: GE’s Rob Posthauer Talks Post-Merger Plans

TWICE Exclusive! On June 6, General Electric handed off its iconic, 125-year-old appliance business to Chinese majap giant Qingdao Haier for $5.6 billion.

Although the ink is still drying on the contract, change is already afoot in Louisville, Ky., where GE Appliances (GEA) reigns, and in Wayne, N.J., headquarters of Haier America, Haier’s eponymous U.S. operation.

What lies ahead for GE under new ownership, and what does it mean for GE’s retail customers? In the following industry-exclusive Q&A, Robert Posthauer, sales VP of GE Appliances, now a Haier company, addresses those issues and more.

TWICE: Have there been any changes at GEA since Haier formally acquired the business in June, whether material or cultural?

Our GEA leadership remains in place and continues to be led by [president/CEO] Chip Blankenship. Our headquarters remains in Louisville. We have recently announced our leadership team for our new combined sales organization: I will be VP of sales, and Paul Riley from Haier America will report to me while supporting his Haier sales team.

TWICE: What do you expect will be the first fruits of your new ownership?

We have been working to accelerate our timetable as we have quickly uncovered synergies to expand our business by filling product gaps on each side. We are collaborating across teams responding to almost daily inquiries on new growth opportunities.

TWICE: Will GEA and Haier America continue to operate as two separate businesses? Is there an opportunity to pool sales, distribution and other services?

For the remainder of 2016, current operations and processes will remain in place for each team. In 2017, we will launch with combined processes, systems and product portfolios building on what works successfully today.

GE made its trade debut as a Haier company at last week’s Nationwide Marketing Group show.

TWICE: Will GEA and Haier America coordinate their go-to-market brand and channel strategies? Do you anticipate a melding of brand families?

We will go to market in 2017 as a house of brands providing a broad selection of brands and products that will serve our customers and our owners well. Our commitment to be the easiest company to do business with and our ability to serve customers with industry-leading distribution and service will carry forward in our new organization across brands.

TWICE: Will GEA and Haier America share their U.S. production? How will Haier’s Camden, S.C., manufacturing facilities be utilized?

The Camden factory is now part of a much larger business, with great potential for growth as we integrate the business’s relationships and infrastructure.

However, there is still a lot to learn about each other’s manufacturing capabilities and opportunities. We currently have a team exploring what that future could look like and we are encouraged by the early feedback, but we have made no firm decisions at this time. We want to get it right.

TWICE: What has been the reaction of GEA’s retail customers to the sale? What have been their chief concerns?

Our customers have been amazing and supportive through this entire process. They have supported us from day one. We have committed to being transparent and focused on running the business for them. Together, it has been a successful journey.

Their biggest concern has been whether GE Appliances’ processes will change. We have listened and are committed to bringing what we do well into our new world.

TWICE: How has or will the acquisition change the day-to-day manner in which your customers conduct business with GEA?

We will offer an expanded brand portfolio and new products. We will invest in new technologies and improved ways to support our customers, but the fundamental ways we conduct business will not change. We are committed to being the easiest company with which to do business, playing to our strengths of an experienced sales team, powerful brands, and great logistics and service.

TWICE: How much autonomy does GEA have in managing its business?

As part of the Haier Group we are now the largest appliance company in the world. That size brings scale and technology from across the globe.

That being said, we are going to be held accountable for U.S. operations. Led by our customers, we will continue to deliver the local expertise that is unique to the U.S. appliance industry.

TWICE: How does ownership by Haier compare to life under GE?

It is exciting to be part of a company that wakes up every day thinking about appliances — just like we do. We love the opportunity and see an incredibly bright future.