Many U.S. companies often look for foreign markets as a way of boosting sales. But the executives at Kohler, the well-known maker of bathroom plumbing products, probably never anticipated the overseas demand for one of their more unusual offerings.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Kohler has hit it big in China with a high-end robotic toilet that retails for about $6400. The Numi-model toilet incorporates motion detectors and a remote control to open and close the toilet seat, and to flush the toilet after use. The Numi also features three separate bidet settings, a built-in stereo system, and (wait for it!) leg-warming porcelain to keep the user warm and comfortable.
The consulting firm McKinsey & Company reports that luxury-good sales to China’s emerging upper middle class increased 16% in 2009, and could account for 20% of worldwide sales by 2015. This is good news for Kohler, whose sales in China now account for about half of the company’s total revenue. The demand has helped to buoy the prospects for the company, which has reduced its American workforce by nearly a third in recent years.
Kohler reports that the demand for the Numi toilet is so strong that the product is on backorder.