Samsung Enters U.S. Fridge Market

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Samsung Electronics has announced it is entering the U.S. refrigerator market with three upscale side-by-side refrigerators with twin cooling systems. The new Silhouette line is scheduled to begin shipping this August in almond and white colors. Initially it will include one 25- and two 27-cubic-foot models at suggested retail prices of $1,499, $1,799 and $1,899.

At the official announcement in New York City, the company donated two models to two charities: Project Renewal, which helps the homeless, and Amfar, which is involved in Aids research.

"These are the world's first refrigerators with twin cooling systems," said Matt Mustachio, director of marketing for Samsung's Consumer Electronics Division. "It enables the refrigerator and freezer to operate separately, each with its own separate motor, controls, evaporator and cooling fan. It's like having two refrigerators in one, providing more efficient operation and keeping the food at a more consistent temperature. This is the next step in refrigeration."

In addition, because both the refrigerator and freezer have their own fans, the airflow is improved, eliminating odors in both parts. "This is one of the advantages of the twin cooling design," said Dennis Joyner, Samsung senior marketing manager of the Home Appliance Division. "There is no filter to change or maintenance involved in the deodorizer." He also pointed out that the refrigerators will use state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly R134a refrigerant.

Other features include glass shelving throughout for easy cleanup, food compartments in the freezer, and a mini-bar in the door of the top-of-the-line 27-cubic-foot model for accessing drinks without opening the whole refrigerator.

Another unusual feature is the temperature control panel located on the outside of the unit's freezer door, which "allows users to change the temperature of the refrigerator and freezer without opening the door," said Mustachio, noting that a childproof lockout system prevents youngsters from playing with the controls. "They can touch the buttons, which are on an LCD display, but they can't change the temperatures."

He also noted that the doors have added insulation to make them more energy efficient and an alarm that sounds if the door is left open too long.

In addition, Samsung is increasing the warranty on the new refrigerators from the industry standard of one year on parts and labor and five years on the seal system to two years parts and labor and seven years on the seal system.

Mustachio noted that adding refrigerators in the United States is part of the company's plans to increase its presence in appliances here.

"Over the past five years, we have grown our appliance business by bringing more appliances to the U.S.," he said, noting that in 1993 the company had only microwaves here. "Since then we have brought in room air conditioners, canister and upright vacuum cleaners, and humidifiers, and now we are adding refrigerators."

Samsung has been in the refrigerator business since 1973 and has three factories in Thailand, Korea and China. The refrigerators heading to U.S. shores will initially be manufactured in South Korea.

The company decided to enter the market with upscale models because it wants to position Samsung products at a higher level, and "we looked at the refrigerator market and saw a need for this type of product," said Mustachio.

The three new refrigerators will initially be distributed in the Northeast, upper Midwest, lower Florida, Los Angeles and Austin, Texas.

"We are taking a leapfrog approach," Mustachio said. "We are picking major target areas for now and plan to add a couple more market areas each year." The New York and Los Angeles markets were selected for the initial rollout, he said, because they have large Korean populations that would be familiar with the brand.

He also pointed out that the company is targeting specialty appliance dealers with salespeople who can explain the benefits of features.

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