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Hitachi taps mania for robotic vacuum cleaners

JIJI

Hitachi Appliances Inc., a unit of Hitachi Ltd., will launch a robotic vacuum cleaner that it says can clean hard-to-reach areas.

At only 25 centimeters wide, the product named minimaru is smaller than rival models and can reach where others cannot, such as spaces between furniture and in the corners of a room, Hitachi Appliances said. It will hit stores on Nov. 19.

The move intensifies competition in the market for robotic vacuum cleaners. Sales in Japan totaled some 200,000 units in fiscal 2015, a 2.3-fold expansion from five years earlier, the company said.

Minimaru will be priced at around ¥108,000.

It moves swiftly and has sensors that help it to avoid hitting the walls and furniture.

It is easy to care for, as it has brushes that clean themselves automatically, Hitachi Appliances said.

In the Japanese robotic vacuum cleaner market, the Roomba series from the U.S. firm iRobot Corp. has gained a strong following. But other contenders include Panasonic Corp., Toshiba Lifestyle Products & Service Corp., which is now a unit of China’s Midea Group Co., and Sharp Corp.

Hitachi Appliances has its sights on sweeping up 10 percent of the market, company officials said.

“Customer appetite is still strong,” said Michiya Matsuda, the board director of Hitachi Appliances. “So the market will continue to expand.”