Consumer Reports tells us “the nameplate doesn’t always indicate who makes your fridge, oven, or washer”.
Our recent tests of refrigerators included more than 70 models from 20 brands.
That’s a lot of companies, until you play appliance detective and discover that the $20 billion annual market for refrigerators, ovens, washers, and other major home appliances isn’t such a vast place after all. That activity turns out to be a bit like playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, though instead of the well-connected actor popping up repeatedly, a few mammoth manufacturers and brands do.
Got pen and paper ready? We haven’t covered every manufacturer, but this rundown will give you a good idea about who actually makes all those appliances. It’s also worth noting that the manufacturing arrangements change all the time.
The Whirlpool Corporation, based in Benton Harbor, Mich., makes Whirlpool, KitchenAid, and Gladiator products. The company accounts for about 17 percent of major appliance sales in the U.S., following closely behind the General Electric brand (17.8 percent) and the Sears Kenmore brand (22.2 percent). Over the years, the Whirlpool company has gobbled up Admiral, Amana, Jenn-Air, Magic Chef, and Maytag, and makes appliances for Ikea (ovens, ranges, cooktops, microwaves, refrigerators, freezers, and dishwashers) and Kenmore (some of the brand’s refrigerators, dishwashers, washers, and dryers). Gladiator and KitchenAid are two “Whirlpool bred” brands.
Whirlpool’s certainly not the only Kenmore supplier. Frigidaire and LG also manufacture Kenmore refrigerators, Haier handles some of its compact fridges, and Danby makes some of its wine chillers, Bosch makes some of its dishwashers, and Electrolux and Sanyo build some of its freezers.
General Electric is well known for a vast array of products–lightbulbs, jet engines for military planes, and “The Today Show.” But this corporate colossus, based in Fairfield, Conn., also makes appliances under the GE, GE Monogram, GE Profile, and Hotpoint brands.
Across the Atlantic, BSH Home Appliances is a leading purveyor of high-end appliances. This German company brings you upscale kitchen and laundry appliances under the brand names Bosch, Gaggenau, Siemens, and Thermador.
BSH has other bedfellows, including KitchenAid, for which it will start making induction cooktops in the summer. Keeping it in the family, KitchenAid turns out a built-in side-by-side refrigerator for Thermador. Bosch’s relationships spread as far as Asia–South Korea’s Daewoo Electronics makes a Bosch side-by-side refrigerator.
Elsewhere in Europe, you might think of Electrolux as the onetime producer of those old, quirky-looking canister vacuums. But this Swedish manufacturer has also brought you refrigerators, freezers, washers, and more under its own nameplate and brands like Frigidaire, Gibson, Kelvinator, Tappan, and White Westinghouse. Proving the Kevin Bacon theory, Electrolux is also connected to Sears: It makes Kenmore dishwashers and high-end Kenmore Pro appliances.
Viking sounds Scandinavian, too, but the company, known for its pro-style ranges and built-in refrigerators, is actually based in Greenwood, Miss. It’s a small world after all: Sweden’s Asko company currently makes some of Viking’s dishwashers. Viking does manufacture its other appliances (and by the end of 2007 will make its own dishwashers), except for a freestanding refrigerator that’s made by Amana and undercounter fridges from Marvel. Got all that?