Robert Lange, director of marketing and brand management for MAAX Spas, says the influx of orders and new dealers in the last couple of months is unlike anything he’s seen in his 16 years with the company. Customers, stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic, have an increased interest in hot tubs.
“The craziest problem to have,” Lange says, echoing sentiments heard across the industry. “It’s something we’ve never had to deal with before — but I don’t want to take my foot off the gas.”
Lange has seen MAAX go through highs and lows, as well as big changes in strategy. When American Whirlpool merged with MAAX in 2017, it went from a house of seven brands down to only two: American Whirlpool and Vita Spa. This also meant the company consolidated its bestselling hot tub and swim spa models, downsizing from 150 models to 60. Each brand has its own swim spa line: PowerPool under the American Whirlpool lineup and xStream Swim Spas under Vita Spas. While each brand has its own hot tub molds, the company’s swim spa venture took an auto industry approach.
“It’s like if you buy a Chevy or a Chrysler,” Lange says. “Under the shell, under the hood, it’s all the same. It’s exactly the same car underneath, it’s just the little accouterments” — he mentions the control valves, pillows, control tops and jets — “that are different.” The pump, design, steel frame and insulation are the same, Lange says.
Though there was a lot of consolidation to get the product mix just right, the company’s 16-foot swim spa, the MX6, was built from the ground up. “We wanted a deeper swim spa so people could run in it and get a workout,” Lange says. “Make [the swimmer] more buoyant, which makes them work harder in the water.”
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MAAX looked closely at the hydrodynamics, working to eliminate counter currents from water hitting the back of the swim spa or filters pulling the swimmers’ feet one way or the other. Instead of plumbing directly from one pump to one jet, the MAAX Force river jets pump everything into larger tubing. “All those pumps pump into one [manifold], and then it separates at the end where the jets are,” he says. “When the pumps are rotating, the impeller pushes the water through the pump, but when it does it has a rhythmic feel. Pumping it all into a manifold smooths the jet stream out and creates anti turbulence. So, you’re really getting a smooth sheet of water.”
Chris Bolte, owner of Agean Bath and Spa in Ohio, says customers have noticed. “Customers love the quality and smooth flow of the MAAX Force propulsion system,” he says.
The development of the MX6 took about a year. “We swam, took notes, told [the engineers] where we were having issues,” Lange says. “We did that for a good year until we got to the point where this new MX6 [VM6 for Vita Spa] is an amazing swimmer. You just jump in and you go.”
The company culture is one thing that has kept Lange, and several other employees, at MAAX for decades. “We take pride in the quality and workmanship of the product,” he says. “Our goal is to make sure that if and when [the hot tub breaks], it can be fixed rapidly and put back to factory specifications right there in your backyard.”
One of the ways they ensure that is with its BlueMAAX insulation, which has a lifetime warranty and is made from recycled blue jeans procured from a local Arizona company. The insulation can be replaced if it’s damaged and, unlike other types of insulation, can be dried out. “If it gets wet due to a leak and you fix the leak, take the insulation out, let it dry out just like you would your pants, put it back in — you’ve lost no R-value in that product at all,” Lange says. BlueMAAX is treated with borate, a natural rodent repellant and fire retardant, both of which Lange has tested. “We tried burning it with a torch, all it did was char it and turn black — it never caught fire,” Lange says. “I had an aquarium here in the office for a month with mice. On one side, we had standard insulation and on the other side we had BlueMAAX. The mice didn’t want anything to do with the BlueMAAX.”