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Whirlpool goes rural
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To Whirlpool, a major US home appliance manufacturer, the road to China's rural marketplace has never looked more attractive, thanks to the central government's massive subsidy program to help promote the sales of consumer durables outside large cities.

After struggling in the Chinese market for years, the Michigan-based appliance giant hopes to capitalize on the opportunity provided by the government initiative to make inroads into the rural Chinese market.

The company, along with Japan's Panasonic and Sanyo and South Korea's Samsung, were among the first foreign brands to win government approval to join a rebate program offered for eight types of washing machines and other products in the countryside.

"The subsidy program, which will help us to expand our distribution channel, is one of Whirlpool's key focuses," said Zhong Min, commercial general manager for Whirlpool China.

"At present, we already have been making products specifically for third-tier and fourth-tier cities," Zhong said.

Zhong said Whirlpool China has identified several types of washing machines and microwaves that are suitable for rural consumers.

"The subsidy program serves as a catalyst for international electronics makers to accelerate their pace to tap into the second- and third-tier cities," said Charlie Jiang, consulting director of the automation and electronics division at business consulting firm Frost & Sullivan.

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