HVAC industry veteran Steven Scarbrough has been named senior vice president and general manager of Air Conditioning Technologies for LG Electronics USA. Scarbrough, who brings nearly two decades of experience to his new role at LG, will be responsible for leading LG’s commercial, residential, and applied air conditioning business in the United States.
Scarbrough succeeds Kevin McNamara, who has retired from LG. He joins LG from Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC U.S., where he has held a variety of key roles over the past decade, most recently as vice president overseeing its U.S. residential business. Previously, he was president of HVAC distributor Climatic Comfort Products.
The ACHR NEWS recently talked with Scarbrough about the transition and the HVAC market.
ACHR NEWS: Talk about the state of the ductless market, both residential and commercial. Is it a growing market? Where does it need to grow more?
SCARBROUGH: Duct-free and VRF growth is still outpacing traditional solutions in the HVAC industry, though the commercial business is facing some stiff headwinds. The applied side of the commercial business has slowed down because of the pandemic; however, I still feel optimistic and confident in reaching our goals. The residential business continues to see record growth throughout significant parts of the country. As an industry, we are seeing significant rebates and incentives for duct-free split systems — primarily in New York State and the New England markets, where incentives run as high as $1,500 a ton. How can the industry grow? Maturity — we are just now starting to get to the “tipping point” for this technology.
ACHR NEWS: For HVAC in general, what do you see for the rest of 2020 and what do you see for 2021?
SCARBROUGH: I expect the rest of 2020 to be steady and don’t foresee any market disruptions. Looking ahead to 2021, I think expecting a complete reset of 2020 is the wrong approach. While I believe that a strong recovery, primarily in the residential market, should be expected, to think the industry can overcome the pandemic and get back to a double-digit growth trajectory may be overly optimistic. For our LG team, we’re doubling down to provide the best resources, training, and support to our partners to help drive success.
ACHR NEWS: How do you go about replacing Kevin McNamara? He made quite a name for himself in the HVAC industry, specifically in the VRF market.
SCARBROUGH: I don’t look at it as replacing Kevin, but rather building on the success that LG enjoyed during his tenure. I’m very excited that this opportunity allows me to build on the success LG has achieved over the past many years under Kevin’s stewardship — particularly in launching the Multi V VRF line and growing that market share with double digit growth year over year. That, coupled with my strong background in growing duct-free split system sales, is a great combination. I’m looking forward to this new chapter and continuing the momentum.
ACHR NEWS: You are coming over from Mitsubishi Electric Trane. Is it strange going to a competitor like this? A little like going from the Red Sox to the Yankees?
SCARBROUGH: Wait, are you calling me a Johnny Damon? You know, he won a World Series title with each team. All kidding aside, I have always considered LG to have great products, backed by the power of great global brand — a true technology innovator across many categories. I’ve quickly come to learn that LG has great people, a strong commitment to its partners, and an insatiable appetite to innovate within the category. Plus, they demonstrate a continued focus on being the market leader in business performance and management practices. I also appreciate LG’s culture of creating value for their customers — that’s paramount in everything the company does. I am fortunate to have been surrounded by many great people throughout my career and am grateful that my relationships and experiences have led me to LG.
ACHR NEWS: How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the HVAC industry and what can manufacturers do to help contractors navigate this time? How are you reaching contractors these days since trade shows are not being held in-person? I know training is important in the ductless market.
SCARBROUGH: Can anyone say “Zoom”? No matter what service you use, virtual hosting has become the norm. As you know, the HVAC industry traditionally has been dependent on face-to-face interaction. Whether it’s hands-on technical training, a sales engineer working with an architect, or a contractor presenting a cooling and heating solution to a homeowner, human interaction has been our key to success. When you think of our business today, with social distancing, restricted movement, and increased sanitation guidelines, manufacturers need to develop virtual tools and training along with online and virtual pre- and post-sale support. Manufacturers that get it right will continue to be successful during the pandemic. While these virtual events can never take the place of face-to-face experiences, they have allowed us to interact with more contractors, engineers, and industry professionals than was previously possible. For example, LG’s Connections webinar series continues to be extremely popular. LG also recently launched a new Pro Dealer Program, providing residential and light commercial HVAC contractors with access to premier benefits, state-of-the-art training, and comprehensive dealer support. This program assists dealers in selling, installing, and servicing our product portfolio and provides even greater resources and incentives to help drive growth for HVAC contractors.
ACHR NEWS: You also have a distribution background. Talk about that part of the market — specifically, selling online.
SCARBROUGH: I do, and I have great respect for that channel segment. Having strong distributor partners is key to being successful in the duct-free business. Localized inventory, support, and training are absolute necessities for long-term growth. As far as selling online, I believe the numbers show that somewhere around 80 percent of buyers research products online before purchasing. I believe in two-step distribution and a professional installation by a trained contractor, but I also see the transition to online purchasing for many common home improvement items today. Navigating the fine line between the online business and traditional distribution will continue to be top of my mind.
ACHR NEWS: What one HVAC issue keeps you up at night, and what one HVAC issue gets you most excited to come to work in the morning?
SCARBROUGH: How long will the effects of the pandemic continue to create uncertainty in the market? It will continue to be difficult to forecast what resources we will need to support our growth and for our partners to commit to that growth. And what gets me most excited? Right now, it’s LG and having the opportunity to lead our great team and partners. The sky’s the limit!