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Should Whirlpool Get to Exploit the Home Field Advantage Against Foreign Competitors Samsung and LG? |

Should Whirlpool Get to Exploit the Home Field Advantage Against Foreign Competitors Samsung and LG?

Companies such as Whirlpool, Samsung, and LG are global enterprises, leveraging international supply chains, manufacturing, and distribution to deliver millions of home appliances and electronics to millions of consumers. These products have been transformed and continue to evolve with digital technologies. An ongoing dispute at the US International Trade Commission (ITC) puts just two of those companies, Samsung and LG, in the spotlight over the once mundane world of washing machines and begs the question, what does it mean to be an American company in the modern globalized world?

A cursory review of Best Buy shows a dizzying display of state of the art washing machines, but we could see options disappear from the market–or prices surge for consumers–unless the ITC acts in the interest of American consumers.

The case at hand deals with a Section 201 petition filed by Whirlpool earlier this year, in which it seeks to eliminate Samsung and LG from the US washing machine market due to their “assault” on American manufacturers and workers. Unfortunately, not only are Whirlpool’s claims misguided (Samsung and LG both announced manufacturing factory builds in the US this year in South Carolina and Tennessee), but this case could eliminate two of the most innovative companies from the home appliance space, resulting in American shoppers having lower quality products and far fewer choices. It appears as though Whirlpool wants to pick your next washing machine for you–And surprise, it’s a Whirlpool.

Cheaper prices or better products?

People know Samsung for its smartphones, which together with Apple, account for two-thirds of handsets in the US, but, like LG, it also makes consumer electronics and home appliances. Whirlpool is no slouch either. With 70 manufacturing locations around the world and running over a dozen brands including Maytag, KitchenAid, Jenn-Air, and Amana, it may be the world’s largest producer of washing machines.

Meanwhile, the marketplace for appliances is rapidly evolving thanks to modern innovations and the Internet of Things.  Washing machines are now a node on the connected home network, a far cry from the days when doing the laundry took an entire day.  The industry has come a long way from when Emory Upton attached a motor to hand power clothes wringer in 1911, an innovation that led to the founding the company Whirlpool.  Today, not only are Samsung and LG at the forefront of connected home, but they have brought renewed competition to the home appliance marketplace, driving prices down and competition up.

More and more, washing machines and dryers are sold in sets because it’s necessary to couple their distinct functions. This allows manufactures to similarly price washers and dryers even though the former costs significantly more to produce, a tactic required to avoid sticker shock. Whirlpool has isolated out washers in their petition to the ITC, which doesn’t look at the full picture of the market given most buy their laundry appliances as a set.

But the question is not whether Samsung and LG are producing cheaper products, but instead better products. Samsung and LG washers have moved the industry forward with advanced features such as touch screens; activewash technology; self-cleaning smart care; noise and vibration reduction; and super speed.  They look like “smartphone” washers in platinum and black stainless steel. Whirlpool missed the early end of this innovation evolution and is just now catching up to the sleek look Samsung and LG have been onto for years.

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