TOKYO -- Panasonic Corp., the Japanese electronics giant revamping itself as an automotive supplier, has taken two more steps in that direction by establishing a new battery venture in China and developing a new technology for laser welding.
In the first, Panasonic will team with Dalian Levear Electric Co. to start making automotive batteries in China around 2017.
The lithium ion batteries will be exported to automakers overseas for use in eco-friendly vehicles such as hybrids and also supplied to automakers assembling domestically in China.
The 50-50 joint venture will be called Panasonic Automotive Energy Dalian Co. and be based in Dalian, Panasonic said.
Separately, Panasonic plans to produce new molding compounds for laser welding that it says will improve the long-term reliability and design of automotive switches and sensors.
Production of the compound, dubbed polybutylene terephthalate, or PBT, is scheduled to begin in March, Panasonic said.
Automakers increasingly are switching to laser welding because it is fast and efficient. But traditional plastic molding compounds used in auto sensors don’t respond well to lasers. Panasonic’s compound does, enabling laser welding of such parts.
The developments, both announced this month, come as Panasonic targets a 62 percent surge in automotive sales by the fiscal year that ends March 31, 2019. By then, Panasonic expects automobiles to generate 21 percent of its global sales compared with about 16 percent in the fiscal year ended March 31, 2015.
Panasonic Automotive Systems ranks No. 21 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 global original-equipment parts suppliers with an estimated $9.64 billion in sales in its 2014 fiscal year. The company expects automotive sales to climb to 2.1 trillion yen ($18.68 billion) in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2019, from a forecast 1.3 trillion yen ($11.57 billion) in the current fiscal year ending March 31.
Sales of comfort, infotainment and cockpit systems are forecast to increase 50 percent to 930 billion yen ($8.27 billion) in that period. Safety technology sales are pegged to rise 52 percent to 470 billion yen ($4.18 billion). Sales of environmental components such as batteries are expected to increase 67 percent to 700 billion yen ($6.23 billion).