EXCLUSIVE: Suburban Leader Details 2023 Product Plans

A picture of Suburban General Manager Mike Phillips sitting at a table

Suburban, an Airxcel brand, has been manufacturing products for more than 75 years. For more than four decades, Art Klee was a part of the Suburban team. Klee spent the past 12 years as Suburban’s president before retiring at the end of 2022.

Klee’s successor, General Manager Mike Phillips, said growth is in Suburban’s future. Phillips said the manufacturer planned to improve on its current product line while expanding into new segments.

“We have three value streams really—the water heaters, the furnaces and cooking products,” Phillips said. “We want to continue to grow those products and be market share leaders in each of those. We will work on other fabrication-type products that make sense for us to grow as we move through 2023 and beyond.”

Phillips spent two years as Suburban’s senior vice president of operations and engineering, overseeing manufacturing, purchasing, procurement and engineering teams. Last summer, he was promoted to general manager and gained oversight of finance, customer service and sales.

As 2023 begins, Phillips’ team is leading numerous new product development plans. Suburban is preparing to launch new range and griddle products as well as the company’s first foray into steps.

“We have a very robust new product development process,” Phillips said.

The first gate a new product must break through in the process is viability, Phillips said. Seven gates must be cleared before a product launch.

“One of the things I am excited about is I have a really good leader in Mike Shaver (Suburban’s director of engineering),” Phillips said. “He is really good at coordinating all of those process steps with speed and thoroughness. We get a product quickly that we can showcase to our customer and see that it works, or take feedback and see where we need to make some improvements.”

The new product list begins with Suburban’s range. The drop-in model will be available in 17-inch and 22-inch sizes. Phillips said the range has a clean, sleek design. The range will be available in stainless steel or black finishes with backlit knobs.

“It is very clean, very sleek and the price point is going to be extremely attractive,” he said. “We are going to be able to produce a high-quality product domestically that will deliver on time at the price point that our customers are looking for. Those are the three key factors we are working towards.”

Steps are another new product. The steps will be available to OEMs and in the aftermarket, with Suburban showcasing the steps at the NTP-Stag Expo in Colorado today and tomorrow.

Final design samples are expected to be available mid-February.

“These new products are coming out quickly over the next few months, and there is a lot of interest in those,” he said

As Suburban looks ahead in 2023, Phillips said opportunities abound.

“As long as we were just a gas product manufacturer, we were kind of limited to the size of the industry,” he said. “If there are 400,000 RVs, we can only sell so many furnaces, so many water heaters, so many cooking products.

“(We asked) what other segments we can get into that fits a core competency we currently have. Then, how can we enter into that and partner with some of our customers to grow that segment of the business. We are working to grow other segments and be a much more diversified.”

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