As competition swirls in the home-appliance market, some critics are growing agitated at what they call the Whirlpool ( WHR) spin machine.

The company got its real start and its name more than half a century ago supplying Sears & Roebuck with modern washing machines, complete with automatic spin cycles. Soon after, Whirlpool established itself as the dominant force in the most lucrative appliance market in the world.

Since then Whirlpool has put together a formidable record of success. Recently the Benton Harbor, Mich., appliance maker managed to top quarterly profit expectations even as some big competitors -- notably Maytag ( MYG) -- drew up short. And while Whirlpool joined its peers in scaling back full-year guidance, it didn't give voice to familiar industry concerns.

Rather, the company says its business is holding up quite well. Indeed, it seems to marvel that its rivals are having such a hard time, and continues to see opportunity where others see peril.

"We're hearing and reading a lot from various participants in the industry about a significant pricing decline," a Whirlpool executive said in a recent conference call with analysts. But Whirlpool had "record revenues in North America, with significantly higher profitability than our major U.S. competitors. ...

"That's really important in this kind of environment, where some of our competitors are reporting the opposite."

But to critics, Whirlpool's escape from industry pressures is downright inexplicable. These people believe the only real constant in America's cutthroat appliance market is Whirlpool's confidence that it will remain on top -- even as brash new competitors mount a new challenge to an industry increasingly threatened by price stagnation. These people see more than a little spin in Whirlpool's past financial reports, and an outlook for the future that doesn't wash at all.

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