Welcome to the Oct. 2 Monday Business Briefing, your private business intelligence digest from Insider Louisville.
Ford unveils high-end Super Duty. If you don’t own a humidor, it’s probably not for you.
From heated and ventilated custom camelback two-tone leather seats, suede headliner and 360 degree, high-definition camera, Ford Motor Co. wants owners of the new high-end Super Duty to feel enveloped in luxury.
Ford says it wants the truck to be so posh that it reminds you of sinking into your favorite lounge chair in your walk-in humidor.
That kind of luxury doesn’t come cheap: The F-250 Super Duty Limited 4×4 starts at $80,835. The F-450 starts at $87,100.
While the Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker has sold expensive trucks for a long time — it introduced a special-edition Harley Davidson F-150 in 1999 — it now is trying to cash in on rising demand for high-end versions of its trucks and SUVs.
For the first six months of this year, sales of premium models — Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum — have risen 43 percent. Collectively, those high-end models account for more than half of the sales mix this year, Ford Sales Analyst Erich Merkle told Insider via email.
Demand for more luxury has boosted the average transaction price by thousands of dollars. In July, for example, the average transaction price for the Super Duty exceeded $55,000, up $4,600 from a year earlier.
The Super Duty is made exclusively at Kentucky Truck Plant, which has 7,700 full-time, hourly employees. Ford said in 2015 that it would invest $1.3 billion into the plant in 2016 to prepare for production of the all-new 2017 model. The company said this summer that it would pump $900 million into the plant to retain local production of the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator.
The 2017 F-250 Super Duty base model sells for as little as $32,535, but even the 250 can sell for much more. The high-end model, Platinum, starts at $62,310 and comes with features such as a remote tailgate release, adaptive steering (which adjusts the steering ratio to vehicle speed) and a color touchscreen with voice activation.
The current F-450 starts at about $60,000. The Platinum version will cost you at least $77,325. By the time you add a spray-in bedliner, a hitch kit and rear inflatable seat belts, the truck today already can easily sell for more than $85,000.
Ford says the new F-450 Limited, which will arrive in showrooms this winter, can top out beyond $94,000
“Super Duty Limited satisfies the demands of a unique set of truck customers who want the best of Built Ford Tough truck capability and innovation with amenities once exclusive to luxury flagship sedans,” Merkle said. “Super Duty Limited customers want the content and refinement of a high-end luxury vehicle without sacrificing the capability found in pickup truck.”
The F150, America’s best-selling vehicle, has proven popular not just with the masses, but also among the wealthy. According to research firm MaritzCX, the pickup in 2016 was the most popular vehicle for people with annual earnings exceeding $200,000. —Boris Ladwig
GE Appliances ups its game with sleek slide-in ranges and smart wall ovens
The innovators at GE Appliances have their thinking caps on so home cooks can spend more time on their creativity and less on the science of cooking. GEA recently rolled out slide-in ranges and wall ovens that may tempt those looking for an easy kitchen upgrade.
GE Appliances says its next-generation slide-in range features an edge-to-edge cooktop with controls on the front and connectivity.
The front-control GE Profile and GE Café slide-in ranges are available now with retail prices ranging from $1,299 to $3,999.
GE Appliances says its front control slide-in ranges “have been transformed into pioneering culinary masterpieces that maximize every inch of space, giving owners sleek, custom look, edge-to-edge cooktops and connectivity to get them cooking with ease and confidence.”
The ranges are Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled, which allows owners to preheat, set timers and change temperatures from smart devices, Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. The gas and dual fuel GE Café slide-in model comes with six burners on a 30-inch range and a double oven. The electric slide-in range includes an induction cooktop in a single oven or a double oven.
Slide-ins are a small but growing market when compared to free-standing ranges. GE Appliances expects the market will grow to one million units sold a year from about 700,000 sold currently. Tim Calvert, marketing director for GE Appliances’ ranges, said in an interview: “We are the industry leader in slide-ins. We were doing great, and we’ll be doing better because” the new offerings are “what consumers want” in terms of features and contemporary design.
According to research from the National Kitchen & Bath Association, he pointed out, contemporary-styled kitchens have overtaken traditional to become the second-most popular North American kitchen design.
GEA also introduced GE Profile wall ovens, which offer a seven-inch full-color touch display that allows owners to select by food types, including meat, poultry, fish and baked goods, automatically selecting the best cooking mode.
The new wall ovens are Wi-Fi enabled and incorporate industry-first algorithms, GEA says. They will be available in January in single and double configurations with a retail price ranging from $2,499 to $3,399.
“The new GE Profile wall ovens optimize heat sources and airflow based on the food, for the desired results every time,” the company says.
Brian McWaters, marketing director for GE Appliances’ built-in cooking products, said in an interview that “we constantly hear from our owners that they want assistance in cooking and they love the idea of making new dishes with confidence.”
The new wall ovens take the stress out of preparing something new, he said. All you have to do is tell the wall oven what you want to make, for example, beef tenderloin, and it will take it from there. You don’t have to know how to cook a beef tenderloin, he added. The engineers at GE Appliances done the work for you, McWaters said, with a custom cooking algorithm for that dish. —Mickey Meece
Kauffman Foundation’s 1 Million Cups program organizes in Louisville
An easy way to engage with entrepreneurs is over coffee, and that is the genesis behind the Kauffman Foundation’s five-year-old 1 Million Cups initiative, designed to educate, engage and connect entrepreneurs with their communities.
Thanks to the work of local organizers Andrew Steen and Janiece Greene, Louisville now has its own chapter and will hold its first event this Wednesday, from 8 a.m.- 9 a.m., at LouieLab. Victor Gutwein, managing director of the Chicago-based M25 Group, will be the guest. Local startups, Louisville Cream and BehaVR, are also part of the agenda.
Andrew Steen has been part of Louisville’s startup community for the last 20 years. Much of that time, he said, has been spent working with startups in the health care sector. He is director of strategic partnerships at Revon Systems.
Janiece Greene is a veteran of the tech industry and said she began her career as a software engineer and management consultant and was one of the industry’s first user experience directors. She is product manager for Purdue University’s Agile Strategy Lab, where she said she oversees the development of digital solutions to support the lab’s open innovation methodology, Strategic Doing.
Steen and Greene recently explained over coffee — where else? — that the chapter would be connected to Kauffman “as a mothership,” but that its goal was to provide a local platform for business owners to network, to tap into local resources and to build a community of entrepreneurs who were not afraid to share successes and failures. —Mickey Meece
Market and deli open in Norton Commons
Bluegrass Exchange Marketplace & Deli opened Friday in the Norton Commons neighborhood.
The 1,300-square-foot bodega-esque business sells sandwiches, soups and salads, which can be eaten on its small six-person patio or taken to go, according to the opening announcement. The Bluegrass Exchange also sells locally sourced beef, chicken, bread, as well as other grocery basics and snacks.
The owners have applied for a liquor license and hope to sell microbrews and wine, too.
Cory Kleinman, Brian Sur and Chad Zanger co-own the Bluegrass Exchange, located at 9428 Norton Commons Blvd. Sur also is a co-owner of Johnny Brusco’s Pizza in Norton Commons.
Woodford Reserve announces its 2017 Master’s Collection: Cherry Wood Smoked Barley
Since 2006, Brown-Forman’s Woodford Reserve has released an annual limited-edition bourbon, or sometimes whiskey, known as the Master’s Collection. It’s a nod to the brand’s knack for innovation and also pays homage to past distillers like Oscar Pepper and James Crow.
In November, Woodford’s latest Master’s Collection, Cherry Wood Smoked Barley, will hit store shelves and likely be gobbled up quickly.
The unique recipe is made with 30 percent malted barley — pretty high for a bourbon — and 70 percent corn, and that barley has been smoked with cherry wood during the kilning process.
According to its tasting notes, the cherry wood accentuates Woodford’s toasted nut characteristics and also produces a rich almond flavor. We’re assuming the flavors imparted by the cherry wood carry over to the final product, much like the use of peat in Scotch.
Master distiller Chris Morris said in the release he started working on this years ago when he first established a recipe with a high percentage of smoked barley.
“By following our five sources of flavor philosophy, one dramatic change can have a tremendous impact on the flavor,” Morris explained. “In this case, a bourbon with a high malt recipe that has been smoked with cherry wood results in a bourbon unlike any other.”
Fieldtrip helps real estate firm rebrand after 30 years
Berkshire Hathaway affiliate Wakefield Reutlinger Realtors shortened its name to WR Realtors and adopted a new logo that the company said was more in line with what it is today.
The name was simplified but still references the company’s founders, WR Realtors said in a news release, and the new logo is “more vibrant and sophisticated.”
“The dandelion icon in the logo represents the agent’s ongoing role in the real estate journey. Like the breeze that helps a dandelion seed find its new home, WR agents are there to help their clients buy and sell again and again,” the release states.
WR Realtors hired Louisville marketing agency Fieldtrip to handle the rebranding.
“This new branding really shows who WR Realtors is and who we have always been – connected, knowledgeable, energetic Realtors who are passionate about our clients and passionate about our community,” Claire Alagia, general manager for WR Realtors, said in the release. —Caitlin Bowling
Mint Julep Tours added a new tour to its roster that’ll take you behind the scenes of Buffalo Trace’s Bourbon Pompeii. The “Bourbon Rocks & Ruins” experience includes a private tour of the excavation site led by bourbon archaeologist Nick Laracuente, a guided tasting of the distillery’s bourbons, and a cocktail paired with appetizers. The first one will take place Thursday, Nov. 2, and costs $175. More of these tours will be added next year.
The Louisville Cardinal exceeded a $5,000 goal on GoFundMe, raising $5,125 as of Sunday morning. The University of Louisville’s independent student newspaper faced the possibility of shutting down next year unless it could replace some of the $60,000 it used to receive in advertisements placed by the office of the president and provost. While its board works on a solution, the chairwoman Jenni Laidman started the first of what could be multiple fundraising campaigns.
Brown-Forman has named Lawson Whiting its new chief operating officer. Whiting has been with the company for 21 years, serving most recently at executive vice president and chief brands and strategy officer.