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Whirlpool Bears First Fruits Of Maytag Merger At Home Depot

The first fruits of Whirlpool’s $2.6 billion acquisition of Maytag last March have begun appearing on white goods sales floors.

The Maytag Epic front load laundry pair began shipping last month and “signals a return to the heritage of quality production and performance for which the Maytag brand is known,” Whirlpool said. Built off a platform that’s comparable to Whirlpool’s landmark Duet front loaders, the Epic washer features 3.8 cubic feet of capacity, automatic water level and temperature controls, and a sensor that adjusts basket rotation speeds for cleaning heavy or delicate loads. Two models are offered, with suggested retails of $1,100 and $1,400, and in silver-on-white, silver-on-black and white-on-white color combinations.

The companion dryer, available in gas and electric models at suggested retails of $900 to $1,059, features 7 cubic feet of capacity, a reversible swing door, and a sensor that monitors moisture levels and temperatures to minimize over-drying and shrinkage.

Both the washer and dryer have extra large windows, die-cast metal knobs and rubber-coated steel inset pockets, and are sold with optional 15.5-inch pedestal drawers.

Whirlpool senior category manager Bill Thomas said the Epic platform was robustly designed to appeal to Maytag “loyalists,” who expect durability and dependability. To that end, the wash basket is constructed of “super tough steel,” the dryer drum has a scratch- and stain-resistant cushion finish, and the line features a “smooth balance” suspension system that works like shock absorbers to help reduce noise and vibration from the higher spin speeds.

Epic debuted at The Home Depot, which was given an exclusive launch window through Sept. 29. The home improvement chain is a core Maytag customer, and had previously expressed concerns about the company’s acquisition by Whirlpool, which is a major supplier to archrival Lowe’s.

In other post-merger developments, Whirlpool said it will shutter Maytag’s majap service unit, All-Brand Service, by Jan. 31, 2007, and will transfer most of its 1,000 technicians to A&E Factory Service, a joint venture held by Whirlpool and Sears Holdings.

In other Whirlpool news, the company has nearly completed the previously announced expansions of its laundry manufacturing operations in Clyde and Marion, Ohio, and its bottom-mount refrigerator factory in Amana, Iowa.

Whirlpool will also expand side-by-side refrigerator production at its facility in Ramos Arizpe, Mexico, beginning in 2007, resulting in the layoff of about 700 employees at its Fort Smith, ARK., plant in 2008, and will ratchet down production at its Evansville, Ind., top-mount refrigerator factory in 2007 in reaction to weaker demand for that configuration, resulting in about 500 pink slips.