Asian battery suppliers are poised to dominate the global automotive market for lithium ion batteries, a report by Pike Research of Boulder, Colo., concludes.
LG Chem Ltd. of South Korea is the top electric-vehicle battery supplier, according to the report, which used 10 variables to rate each supplier's technology and staying power. Three Japanese companies -- GS Yuasa Corp., Automotive Energy Supply Corp. and Panasonic Group -- also were among the elite performers.
Two U.S. companies, Johnson Controls Inc. and A123 Systems, were rated highly. A German-Korean partnership, SB LiMotive, rounded out the top seven.
The Pike report parallels some findings of a September survey by Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, which listed Automotive Energy Supply, LG Chem, Panasonic, A123 and SB LiMotive as early front-runners.
Pike rated the seven top battery suppliers on factors such as market share, product quality, financial resources, geographic reach, nonautomotive applications and product strategy.
But the report's author, John Gartner, cautioned that it's too early to assume these companies will dominate a mature battery industry in a decade or so.
"This is a snapshot in time," Gartner said. "It's a relatively new industry, so strong partnerships are critical at this point. We'll probably see a shakeout."
With that in mind, here's a look at the top players:
1. LG Chem of South Korea generates annual battery sales of $8.5 billion for consumer electronics and other markets. A wholly owned subsidiary, Compact Power Inc., produces batteries for the Chevrolet Volt and Ford Focus EV.
2. Johnson Controls Inc. of Milwaukee ranks second because of its prominence in the market for lead-acid batteries. The company supplies lithium ion batteries to Mercedes, BMW, Ford and others, but has not aggressively sought market share.
3. GS Yuasa Corp. of Japan has formed joint ventures with Honda Motor Co. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. Although the company has had limited success outside Japan, it has deep pockets and technical resources.
4. Automotive Energy Supply Corp. of Japan is a joint venture of Nissan Motor Co. and electronics giant NEC Corp. The partnership produces EV batteries for Nissan and Renault SA. It has not won significant business outside those companies.
5. A123 Systems of Waltham, Mass., has secured contracts to supply batteries for the Chevrolet Spark EV, Fisker Karma and other EVs. But the company's small size leaves it financially vulnerable when customers cancel or delay contracts.
6. Panasonic Group, a major battery maker for consumer electronics, supplies batteries for the Toyota Prius. In February, it signed a contract to supply lithium ion batteries for four Ford hybrids.
7. SB LiMotive, a joint venture of Robert Bosch GmbH and Samsung SDI Co., has r&d resources plus deep pockets. But the partnership is a relative latecomer to the EV market and has yet to develop a significant market share.