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Turnout Dicey For Builders’ Show In Vegas

Less than two weeks after International CES, industry attention returned to the Las Vegas Convention Center last week for the 2009 International Builders’ Show (IBS), which ran here Jan. 20-23.

The mood on the show floor was expected to be downbeat and attendance light, as the housing sector — and related industries including major appliances — continue to feel the effects of a depressed real estate market and the fallout from the sub-prime mortgage meltdown.

Indeed, just a handful of majap manufacturers planned to exhibit at IBS, with only Avanti, Danby, GE, Viking and Whirlpool on the short list. Other vendors were expected to hold court offsite.

GE, for one, used the show to introduce its first freestanding GE Profile induction range. The product, designed in a variety of colors, finishes and sizes, features a 3,700-watt output element and will ship this spring.

Whirlpool, which has been a recent no-show at the Kitchen/Bath Industry Show (K/BIS) but has exhibited continuously at IBS for the past 57 years, demonstrated its Whirlpool Eco Kitchen. Described as the brand’s most energy-efficient kitchen ever, the Eco Kitchen includes the company’s miserly Resource Saver refrigerator, Resource Saver dishwasher, Velos SpeedCook oven and Energy Save range.

Whirlpool also introduced new lines under the Jenn-Air and KitchenAid brands. The former included a third-quarter collection of high-performance wall ovens with 7-inch color LCD touchpads, dual-fan convection elements rated at 6,800 watts, and new downdraft cooktops available in a unique, ductless configuration. Jenn-Air also showed integrated built-in refrigerators in bottom-freezer and side-by-side door options, including a 42-inch French door bottom-freezer configuration.

From KitchenAid came a new three-tier dishwasher platform set to ship this spring. The top-of-the-line Superba Series EQ features the high-performance EQ wash system, which utilizes pressure-optimizing wash arms to provide superior, concentrated wash performance, and a variable speed motor that automatically adjusts power based on water conditions to maximize energy efficiency and reduce motor noise.

A core Superba Series features the KitchenAid ProScrub option, which uses 36 targeted spray jets to provide highly effective cleaning for baked-on messes. The models also feature a powerful built-in hard food disposer that requires no manual cleaning and eliminates the need to pre-rinse dishes.

Basic models in the Classic Series come with four stainless-steel wash arms that maximize wash coverage in the dishwasher, and other standard KitchenAid features such as a 100-percent stainless-steel tall tub, an Optimum wash sensor that adjusts the wash cycle to specific water conditions, and a dedicated heating element with a heat-dry option that heats the tub at the end of the cycle for improved drying performance.

In a statement, NAHB chairman Sandy Dunn thanked Whirlpool for its continued support. “Whirlpool has been a very good friend of ours for nearly six decades,” said Dunn, a home builder from Point Pleasant, W. Va. “They have been a constant presence at our annual exhibition for 57 years, and have also provided significant support to NAHB Councils, programs, shows and other initiatives. We’re looking forward to many more years of partnership.”

No doubt a big draw at the show was a planned presentation by Freddie Mac chief economist Frank Nothaft on the outlook for housing and the economy in 2009. Joining him were David Crowe, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the show’s producer, and David Berson, chief economist for the PMI Group, a mortgage insurance firm.