ATLANTA (Reuters) – The first washing machine made under the Maytag brand by new owner Whirlpool Corp. is being rolled out this week at Home Depot Inc., which is devoting more space to appliances in a bid to boost its market share.
The front-loading Maytag Epic washer, available in white and black at prices beginning at $1,099, is made on the same platform as the Whirlpool Duet machine, which has big, see-through round windows on the doors.
Front-loading washers, which open from the front as opposed to the top, can hold larger quantities of clothing, work faster and use less water and energy.
For the Epic, the stakes are high as Whirlpool looks to breathe new life into Maytag, a U.S. appliance icon admired for dependability but dragged down in recent years by financial woes that hampered innovation.
Retailer Best Buy Co. stopped selling Maytag washers and refrigerators last year, citing a preference for other brands.
“The place where Maytag really has a black eye is with the appliance retailers,” said Greg Alford, senior partner with Peachtree Consulting Group in Atlanta. “If Whirlpool misses the mark, they would be running out of strikes pretty quickly.”
Whirlpool acquired its former rival in March, and by 2008 plans to have introduced a new suite of laundry products under the Maytag name.
“If you look at where Maytag was in the last couple of years, it was pretty cash starved and the ability to invest was rather limited,” said Bill Cody, Home Depot merchandising vice president for kitchen and appliances,
On Home Depot’s floor, the Maytag Epic will compete with washing machines from General Electric Co. and South Korea’s LG Electronics Inc., which makes a front-loading steam washer available in colors such as midnight blue and wild cherry. Home Depot stores do not sell Whirlpool brand products.
The Maytag Epic is set apart from Whirlpool’s Duet by engineering that makes it more resistant to scratches and stains and a commercial-grade motor, said Audrey Reed-Granger, director of marketing and public relations for the Maytag brand.
“Internally, we beefed this product up,” Reed-Granger said. “The Maytag consumer is accustomed to a very strong and powerful unit.”
Cody said the Epic reduces the noise and vibration typically associated with washing machines that have higher spin speeds — an important feature as washers make their way to upper floors from the basement.
“A customer can install these products on a second level and not be disturbed by vibrations and noise,” Cody said.
The Epic will eventually be available at other national retailers, Whirlpool said.