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issue: December 2004 APPLIANCE Magazine

Outdoor Appliances - International Lawn, Garden, and Power Equipment Expo 2004
Lawn & Garden Equipment Designed to Please

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APPLIANCE attended the 2004 International Lawn, Garden, and Power Equipment Expo in Louisville, KY, U.S. to find the industry’s latest outdoor appliances.

The residential walk-behind HRX from Honda is designed to give consumers the best of both worlds—simultaneous bagging and mulching of grass clippings. The unit’s four-in-one mowing system not only enables the bagging and mulching feature, but allows for concurrent distribution of clippings to both the bag and the ground.

As evidenced by the products exhibited at the 2004 International Lawn, Garden, and Power Equipment Expo, manufacturers are using consumer feedback to design the next generation of lawn and garden equipment.

According to the July 2004 market outlook provided by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), U.S. production of lawn and garden equipment has been relatively steady this year between February and May. The association also reports that the lawn and garden production index is up 9.4 percent since December 2003, compared to only 3.4 percent for the overall index of industry production.

“The forecast for the 2004 model year is up for the most part because we’ve had a couple of good years,” notes Bill Harley, president and CEO of OPEI, which sponsors the annual Expo. “We’ve had good weather around the U.S. and an extended growing season.”

And based on the products exhibited at this year’s Expo, the 2005 model year should be just as successful. Many outdoor power equipment manufacturers are responding more aggressively to consumer and dealer feedback, creating residential equipment that is built for comfort, simplified for ease of use, and designed to be more aesthetically pleasing. 2005 model year highlights include new or refined intuitive features such as walk-behind mowers that conform to a user’s walking speed, easier start and stop functions, and accessories that perform multiple tasks or can be switched with a minimum amount of labor.

Zero-turn rider mowers for residential use continued to turn visitors’ heads at this year’s Expo, as several companies introduced new or updated consumer models. Although zero-turn technology has been available in commercial-grade rider mowers since the 1970s, the technology was introduced to the residential rider market in 2002 and is just starting to take off. “The technology is incremental, but we continue to see zero-turn growing tremendously among consumers, mainly because they’re fun to drive, quick, and efficient,” Mr. Harley of OPEI tells APPLIANCE. “Riding products in general have been growing in the consumer market and this would apply to any riding equipment, including zero-turn. The equipment has become more affordable because costs have come down.”

Working with its dealers, Ariens Co. (Brillion, WI, U.S.) discovered that current and prospective customers’ number-one concern was the steering controls on the company’s line of zero-turn equipment. “The steering mechanism was not robust enough for our customers’ needs, along with limited tracking adjustments,” states Mark Wittak, an engineer at Ariens. “The 2005 design has addressed all of our customers’ concerns. The new steering has a commercial feel and look to it. The tracking adjustments also enable the units to track straight in both forward and reverse.”

When Honda Power Equipment (Alpharetta, GA, U.S.) realized that an increasing number of lawnmower users desire the ability to bag a portion of the lawn clippings while also mulching the remaining quantity, the company began designing the feature into its HRX series of residential walk-behind mowers, which were introduced in the 2004 model year.

Replacing the Honda HRB series mowers that were introduced in 1992, the HRX line marked the first time the company’s mowers had been redesigned from the ground up. Unlike existing models that can bag and mulch only when parts are removed and accessories changed, Honda’s HRX consumer walk-behinds are designed with a four-in-one mowing system, which is said to enable simultaneous bagging and mulching grass clippings, as well as concurrent distribution of clippings to both the bag and the ground. A clip director lever located behind the engine cowling operates a sliding door between the mower deck and the grass bag, allowing the operator to easily mulch and bag 100 percent of clippings, rear discharge and simultaneously mulch and bag, or rear discharge in varying degrees through 10 separate settings. The company has also added an electric start model to its 2005 HRX line for added convenience.

New and improved ergonomics have also been designed into the latest outdoor power equipment. The handle system on Lawn-Boy’s latest residential walk-behinds, for example, has an adjustable handle height with five range settings. According to the Bloomington, MN, U.S.-based company, the settings were designed to provide proper handle height for 97.5 percent of all users. The handle height is adjusted by a knob on the right side of the handle that can be easily reached from the operator position. A soft radius design matches the angle the user’s hand would naturally move to grab an object. A padded grip provides added hand comfort, according to the company, as opposed to cold metal handles that don’t conform to the hand.

Lawn-Boy has also re-designed the choke systems on its residential walk-behind mowers, said to be one of the most misunderstood components by consumers. “People struggle with when to switch the choke on and when to switch it off,” says Pat Cappucci, director of Sales and Marketing. In response, Lawn Boy devised a new choke system that chokes automatically without user adjustment.

Following are highlights of the latest products from the lawn and garden appliance makers that exhibited at Expo 2004, held Sept. 24-26, 2004 in Louisville, KY, U.S. Next year’s Expo will be held Oct. 14-16, 2005 at the Kentucky Exposition Center, in Louisville, KY, U.S.


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