Whirlpool Corp. builds Crosley washing machines in Clyde, Ohio and is the world's biggest washer maker. It's asking the U.S. government to impose duties on imports of residential washing machines made by South Korean rivals Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Inc, the second time in a year that Whirlpool sought to use U.S. trade laws to protect itself from imports.
Whirlpool is accusing the two Korean companies of "dumping" washers made in Korea and Mexico into the U.S. market at prices below their production costs because they benefit from various Korean government subsidies.
David MacGregor, an analyst at Longbow Research in Cleveland, fears that duties might help persuade LG and Samsung to set up U.S. manufacturing, making them even more competitive.
At Clyde, Whirlpool just began bringing back to that plant some front-load washers it had been producing in Germany and Mexico. But, the company said in its petition to the government, unfairly priced imports have wiped out profits on that production in Clyde, "to the point where Whirlpool's ability to maintain its commitment to expanded U.S. production is very much at risk."
LG and Samsung sold tens of thousands of washers at deep discounts, sometimes as much as 50 percent, during the recent Black Friday sales period, Whirlpool said. Whirlpool tried to limit its Black Friday promotions this year and ended up losing market share, it said.
Imports of residential washers are at 34 percent of the U.S. market, up from 28% for 2008 as a whole. Last October, Whirlpool said it would eliminate 5,000 jobs and close a refrigerator plant in Fort Smith, Ark, leaving eight manufacturing sites in the U.S.
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