KitchenAid Superba "architect series" side-by-side refrigerator - beautiful loser
We purchased a set of Superba stainless steel appliances as part of a home remodeling project in fall 2002. This was after buying a Superba dishwasher some years earlier with some success. The range has given minor trouble - control failures, most of which seem to result from water vapor getting into the glass touch-screen control panel, a control knob that shorted, and a burned out heating element.
However the mother of all problems is the refrigerator, which we bought for its looks - easily the best looking, inside and out, of any major manufacturer.
The refrig. has had problems cooling from the time it was new. Briefly, it cools by admitting cold air from the freezer section through a thermostatically controlled flap in the top rear of the dividing wall between the refrigerator and freezer. THIS EXACT DESIGN IS USED BY WHIRLPOOL, KITCHENAID, MANY KENMORE SIDE-BY-SIDE MODELS, AND SOME LG MODELS. The flap mechanism seems to ice up and stop working. At that point it can't control cooling. In our case, we noticed that milk would go bad.
Several service calls went by, during which we were told there was no problem. Eventually (after warranty expiration) another service call resulted in replacement of a control board (about $300). Only much later did we learn from a service tech that the problem was the temp. control flap "valve".
In 2006, just before its fourth birthday, the plumbing inside the fridge let go, flooding our kitchen and basement ($15,000 in damage, including replacing he kitchen floor). The service tech explained that the plastic tubing that feeds the icemaker and water dispenser had slipped out of a fitting under the unit. He replaced the fitting. I contacted KitchenAid and was told they had never heard of this problem. I kept moving up the KitchenAid organization but got the same answer all the way up the line - the attitude was basically this was not their problem.
A year later (2007), the refrigerator blew the same tubing fitting again, and again flooded the kitchen. This time the insurance company's engineer came in to look at it. He discussed with the service tech that had replaced the fitting the year before, and suggested this was a design or manufacturing defect. I contacted KitchenAid again, and again got the stonewalling from their people.
Needless to say, we did not connect the unit up to water again. The ice dispenser does make a convenient ice bucket for the bags of ice we get at the store.
By January 2009, the temperature control was working erratically again, and all the fixes our tech had shown us (let it defrost, warm it up, etc., were not working. Time to bring in the service man again! This time, he said the flap/control mechanism was shot, and we needed to replace it. He stuck a pencil in the flap to keep it open while he ordered the part, so the fridge section could cool down. The part was another $250 (don't remember whether this included installation).
Finally, in June, the unit stopped working completely. Another visit from the service technician confirmed that the compressor had blown. He recommended we junk the fridge and stat
We have contacted KitchenAid again, but have not started to deal with their rigmarole yet.
Went shopping for a new refrigerator today, and learned that our unit's design is shared by KitchenAid, Whirlpool, Kenmore, Maytag and some LG models - same parts, same systems, just different doors.
I'm now looking for any brand refrigerator that has nothing to do with KitchenAid/Whirlpool. At the high end, KitchenAid sells in the same price range as "expensive" brands like Electrolux (hopefully they are not Whirlpool too).
The KitchenAid approach to customer service is beyond useless. It seems to be part of their business process to simply deny that any problem with their appliance is their problem. They will bump you around from one person to another, all the way up to the "executive offices" (probably another desk at the call center, since the person I spoke to knew nothing about the products and seemed to be just following the same script as everyone else there.
Whirlpool makes a big song and dance about being an American product (most of their refrigerators, including the KitchenAid, are now assembled in Mexico - I think mine was still made here). They also do a pretty convincing sales job on commitment to quality (did you know their door bins are guaranteed for life??). When it comes to actually standing behind their product, good luck - these people will give you nothing but excuses.
Epilog: These people actually made a good product and backed it, once. I own a Whirlpool refrigerator that has served us faithfully since 1986 - it's probably seen a repairman twice. They even had a "cool line" back then, staffed by people who could actually tell you how the fridge worked, and even how to fix it.
Maybe with the downturn they will finally go bankrupt and sell out to Lucky Gold Star (LG) or some other Asian firm. It can't be worse.