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Another Li-ion battery fiasco December 8, 2006

Posted by fukumimi in electronics, Japan, Mobile.
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Sanyo Electric, which has a massive 90% share of the Japanese domestic mobile phone battery market (and 40% global market share), is the company at the center of another Li-ion battery fiasco.

Sanyo was aware of at least 11 reports of batteries overheating by May of this year, but neither Sanyo, Mitsubishi Electric (whose phones used the Sanyo manufactured D06 battery) or NTT DoCoMo (which sold the Mitsubishi Electric produced D902i/D902iS/D903 which used the battery) announced a recall until yesterday. The recall was triggered by a case where a user suffered burns due to a faulty battery last month. There have apparently been at least 17 cases of serious overheating (including one case of the battery exploding).

The battery business is one of Sanyo’s key business lines, and was expected to be a core business as Sanyo restructures and sheds loss making business units. Sanyo had brought in an external CEO to rebuild the business and the restructuring has not been going very well. This incident may trigger wider repercussions within Sanyo.

This will come as a blow to DoCoMo as well, they are struggling with users switching to rival au(KDDI) since mobile number portability was introduced back in October.

Keeping the problem quiet for 6 months is not acceptable when consumer safety is at stake. In any case, the recall which affects 1.3 million units will cost up to $50M. The companies are saying that other battery models are unaffected. If it turns out this claim is later withdrawn, heads should roll.

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