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issue: May 2007 APPLIANCE Magazine

Tokyo Report
Japanese Refrigerators Get Bigger

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by Wasaku Ishida, Japan Correspondent, and president, JARN (Japan Air Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration News)

A trend in the Japanese refrigeration market is the adoption of larger capacity cold storage compartments with functions for more versatility.

In recent years, manufacturers have begun developing products with better energy efficiency, improved ability to retain freshness, more storage capacity, and other features for versatility. Manufacturers recently began focusing more on larger capacity models to keep up with changing lifestyles.

Japan’s domestic refrigerator market reported sales of 4.5 to 4.6 million units in 2006, and remained slightly below the previous year’s figures. It appears, however, that there is demand for units to replace those purchased 10 years ago.

The market share of larger models—above 401 liters (approx. 14 cubic feet)—is increasing and expected to reach 36-38 percent of the total number of units sold, or about one-and-a-half times more than 10 years ago.

Matsushita aims to increase its market share in the 400-liter class with the New Compact BIG series. To make the main compartment easier to use, the series has a “low waist line,” which means the bottom of the cold storage compartment has been lowered to a level near the end of a woman’s elbow. The inside volume of the NR-F531T model was increased to 525 l while keeping installation space down to that of 450-l models.

Toshiba Consumer Marketing, seeking a 25-percent market share with its large models, adopted the high-volume Technology “C” (compact) module engine, which it says allows increased main compartment capacity. The compact installation space is comparable to that of the 400-l models-launched 9 years ago, while the internal volume of the cold storage compartment was increased to 445-l.

Mitsubishi Electric Corp. (Melco) wants to secure a 20-percent market share. Three new models in the G series have large capacity, but are also compact (685 mm wide), and one model has a newly developed slim, center opening. The main compartment has “efficient space utilization” shelves to fit a pan or boxed cakes. Shelf height can be adjusted by sliding an adjustment lever to accommodate food items.

Hitachi Appliances aims to secure a 40-percent share in 500-l class refrigerators. It launched four models in the Big & Cool Enough line. The line adopts a Center Refrigeration configuration, with the freezer in the center of the refrigerator. The units make use of a “highly fluid urethane,” developed specifically for the series, helping it attain a slim design. This means the 535-l (approx. 18.9 cubic feet) refrigerator, said to be the Japanese industry’s largest capacity, still fits into a 685 mm-wide space.


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