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Haier Eyes Full-Line Expansion

Haier America Trading, which got its start in the U.S. market selling compact appliances manufactured in China, is now branching out to larger, U.S.-made products.

President/CEO Michael Jemal said Haier’s goal is to be “a full-service, multi-category distributor of major appliances.”

The company will unveil its first unit in a planned line of full-size refrigerators at the January Housewares Show, Jemal said. The 18-cubic-foot capacity refrigerator and other full-size units will be manufactured at Haier America’s new plant in Camden, S.C., scheduled to begin production during the second quarter of next year.

Haier will begin shipping its first room air conditioners in January for the 2000 season. The firm’s initial line comprises five models ranging in capacity from 5,000 Btu to 12,800 Btu. The units will be sold to major appliance retailers and mass merchants.

Joining the air conditioners and the 18-cubic-foot refrigerator at its Housewares Show booth will be another first-time entry for the company — a wine cooler, to be available at retail in January — and a new undercounter compact refrigerator with crispers. A line of steam irons is also set to be introduced at the show.

Jemal said additional appliances will be introduced at the April Kitchen/Bath Industry Show in Chicago.

Although Haier America’s parent company produces a full line of major appliances in China, the units being launched in this country “are not just coming off the shelf from China,” Jemal said. “We are designing products specifically for the U.S. market.”

Haier America plans to introduce about 20 new products to U.S. retailers during the course of the next year.

So far this year the company has introduced and begun shipping five laundry appliances, including three portable top-loaders in capacities from 3.3 pounds to 8.8 pounds; a front-loading washer with 11.2-pound capacity; and a similarly sized washer/dryer combo. A new line of 7-cubic-foot chest freezers is also in distribution.

Next month Haier begins delivering a 4-cubic-foot undercounter refrigerator with a stainless-steel cabinet. The refrigerator is designed for poolside use, home bars or offices.

The company is keeping a close watch on the microwave oven business before deciding whether to expand its two-model offering, Jemal said. “We want to determine where the current price fallout winds up. That’s a very unstable business right now.”

With the addition of full-size refrigerators and air conditioners, Haier America is lacking only ranges and dishwashers to be a true full-line appliance supplier. Asked if those two categories are on the company’s drawing board, Jemal said with a laugh, “We have a lot of drawing boards… and a lot of different products are on them.”