|The manual version of Gillette's new Fusion razor
NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
Gillette has escalated the razor wars yet again, unveiling a new line of razors on Wednesday with five blades and a lubricating strip on both the front and back.
The razor, known as the Fusion, has blades spaced 30 percent closer than Gillette's current MACH3Turbo system. It also has a single blade on the back of the cartridge for shaving sideburns or trimming under the nose.
The move renews an ongoing blade battle with Schick, the shaving unit of Energerizer (Research), which launched a four-blade razor, the Quattro, last year. The move ate into Gillette sales and sparked a legal battle between the two companies.
Schick is adding a battery-powered Quattro to its lineup this month, while Gillette's Fusion -- in both manual and battery-powered models -- won't hit North American stores until early next year.
"The Schick launch has nothing to do with this, it's like comparing a Ferrari to a Volkswagen as far as we're concerned," Chairman, President and Chief Executive James Kilts, told Reuters.
Razors accounted for nearly half of the company's $2.8 billion net sales in its most recent quarter, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The razor and blade industry has annual sales of $2.4 billion in the U.S. and $10 billion globally, according to Gillette.
The Fusion will also be available in a power version and features a micro-chip that regulates the voltage and blade action. Other high-tech features include a low battery indicator light and a safety switch that shuts the razor down after eight minutes of continuous operation.
The manual version will be available in North America in the first quarter of 2006 and has a retail price of $9.99 with two cartridges.
The power model hits stores at the same time and comes with a one cartridge and a AAA battery for $11.99.
Gillette (Research) is in the process of being acquired by Procter & Gamble (Research), a $57 billion dollar deal announced in January 2005.
-- From staff and wire reports
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