Last year's acquisition of GE Appliances was clear confirmation that Chinese manufacturer Haier has its sights set on the American appliances market. The purchase made sense, too -- Haier makes small, feature-forward appliances that play well in Europe and Asia, but don't really fit with traditional American tastes. GE's appliances give the company an easy avenue into the states.
That's why it's such a surprise to learn that, in addition to selling American-style appliances through the GE brand, Haier is going to start bringing its own appliances to the US this year, too. And no, it isn't Americanizing them -- these are unabashed Haier appliances built for small spaces and feature-focused consumers.
Haier thinks the time is right to start shifting American attitudes about appliances. Citing US Census data that shows construction of smaller living spaces to be at its highest levels in 40 years, Haier sees a new niche it might be especially well-suited to cater to -- particularly with young, first-time homeowners.
To start, Haier plans to introduce the US to seven new appliances this year:
- A 24-inch, 2-cubic-foot freestanding gas range for $1,100
- A 24-inch electric cooktop for $600
- A 24-inch, 2-cubic-foot European-style convection oven for $1,000
- A 24-inch black glass range hood for $600
- An 18-inch top-control dishwasher for $800
- A 24-inch stacked combo washer and dryer for $1,200
- A 14.2-cubic-foot French door refrigerator for $1,200
Potential standouts include the $1,000 convection wall oven with a European-style door that swings open from the side like a microwave, and a stacked combo washer and dryer along with a stainless steel French door fridge that are both small on size but big on style. Haier hopes both carry some appeal for young couples, single professionals and any other design-minded consumers for whom bigger might not necessarily be better.
As for GE, expect to continue seeing the same sorts of appliances that you're used to, but don't be surprised if a little bit of Haier's tendency to emphasize design starts to bleed through. Case in point: new "Black Slate" GE appliances at CES that hope to win some sales with a slightly subtler shade of black.
Those are the kinds of hairs that Haier needs to split in order to penetrate the market, but it has enough experience and capital to give it a good shot. And remember -- the last time we saw major Asian appliance-makers enter the US market was with the arrival of Samsung and LG. Both found big success by focusing on high-end, feature-rich designs that capture a lot of attention, enough so as to put brands as venerable as Whirlpool on the defensive.
Only time will tell if Haier can find that same kind of success with lower-end appliances. For now, we'll prepare to roll up our sleeves and test everything out back at CNET Appliances HQ. Should make for a busy, fascinating year -- stay tuned. In the meanwhile, see all our coverage of.
Editor's Note: Haier isn't planning to bring the touchscreen refrigerator originally described in this post to the US this year. The article has been updated accordingly.