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issue: January 2004 APPLIANCE Magazine

52nd Annual Appliance Industry Forecasts
North America: Individual Company Outlooks - Kitchen Appliances

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by Lincoln Brunner, Contributing Editor

Product line expansion is fueled by economic optimism.

Viking Range, one of the pioneers of commercial-type cooking products for residential use, is plowing through the new product waters at a fast clip, introducing more than 40 new products in the first 3 quarters of 2003.

"Viking is continuing to aggressively introduce and market new additions and extensions to our product line," said Viking Range Public Relations Director Jane Crump. "We are very optimistic about 2004. The high-end business continues to be good, and we anticipate a good 2004."

The top-end business is going great guns north of the border, as well. "The majority of the market still is commodity-driven; there is still a huge volume there," said Mr. Elsey of EFC. "But in terms of ... profitability, the direction and the growth will be in the high-end, commercial-oriented designer kitchens. That hasn't changed for a couple of years now. There's real growth there."

Third-quarter results were kind to Whirlpool Corp., as the appliance industry pillar announced net earnings of $105 million, compared to $101 million in the third quarter of 2003.

Benton Harbor, MI, U.S.-based Whirlpool expects full-year shipments of its products to increase by about 3 percent overall in 2003, bolstered by a 3-percent increase in fourth-quarter shipments.

The company cited strong consumer demand for products such as the Duet washer and dryer pair in the third quarter. Whirlpool also touted is KitchenAid Pro Line major kitchen appliance line, including built-in refrigerators and ovens, cooktops, warming drawers, and dishwashers "with a professional look and performance." The company also reported better sales in Europe, Asia, and Latin America.

"We expect that our focus on global innovation and distribution will help drive continued improvement in the company's performance throughout the remainder of the year," David R. Whitwam, Whirlpool CEO, said.

As for fellow appliance heavyweight Maytag, the owner of three of the U.S. industry's key brands - Maytag, Amana, and Jenn-Air - is looking forward to a robust 2004. "Economic indicators show steady growth in housing starts, and interest rates remain low," Maytag Public Relations Manager Jill Spiekerman told APPLIANCE. "We expect the industry to be up approximately 3 percent this year and would anticipate similar performance in 2004."

Maytag aggressively pushed new products into the market in 2003, including the Maytag Neptune TL, a top-load version of the popular machine the company introduced 5 years ago. In the TL, the company is boasting the industry's first agitator-free washing machine that employs a new tumbler design that turns clothes gently under a shower of water and reportedly can reduce energy and water use by 65 percent and 50 percent over traditional machines, respectively.

Jenn-Air was busy, as well, expanding its line to include entertainment-theme products such as warming drawers, icemakers, and wine chillers. Staying with the entertainment theme, Jenn-Air also introduced a 1.2-cu-ft wall oven that can be installed in rec rooms and bars while handling most day-to-day items.

Within the Amana line, the company introduced additions to its line of Easy Reach Plus bottom-freezer refrigerators and a line of freestanding ranges with a more contemporary design.

"There's a widespread sense that the economy is picking up steam," Ms. Spiekerman said. "Leading economic indicators are starting to show that a 2004 recovery is very possible. Plus, the Federal Reserve's commitment to low interest rates should keep the refinancing and housing markets strong. As a strong housing market and an increase in consumer confidence can be two of the most important factors in appliance purchases, we believe we have reason to be optimistic in 2004."

Sweden-based Electrolux reportedly is enjoying success with its Frigidaire refrigerator line. "Electrolux also has added easy care stainless steel to Frigidaire refrigerators," said Electrolux spokesperson Jacob Broberg. "The new finish resists fingerprints and retains the true stainless steel look and feel. Consumer research proved correct, as these products have been strong performers since their introduction."

Mr. Broberg said a new range of Electrolux-branded products is key for the company in 2004. Taking the lead from international influences, the company is going to offer the Trilobite, a robotic vacuum cleaner, to the North American market in 2004. Electrolux also plans to offer North American customers a new wall oven that features what Electrolux calls the "coolest oven door in the industry," which uses an all-glass sandwich design.

"The expansion of product offerings and market coverage with the Electrolux brand is a key focus [for 2004]," Mr. Broberg said. "We have started to build Electrolux as our master brand. Strong emphasis on responding to trade partner coordination is another key."

Read all the articles from our January 2004
52nd Annual Appliance Industry Forecasts

Click here for the complete Forecasts index, including:
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  • North America
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