TOKYO — Panasonic Corp. on Monday had a bright spot in an otherwise downbeat earnings report: its Tesla battery business.
The Japanese company's energy division posted its first operating profit in three quarters.
"Sales and profit at the Tesla business have improved," Umeda said of the division's 16.5 billion yen operating profit ($150 million).
He said additional lines at Tesla's Gigafactory battery plant in Nevada would be installed by the end of March, bringing the plant's total capacity to the 35 gigawatt hours.
Panasonic, the exclusive battery cell supplier for Tesla's current production models, saw its profits squeezed early last year by the U.S. EV maker's initial production delays for the mass-market Model 3 sedan.
Tesla expressed optimism last month that it would post profits in every quarter in 2019, but the winding down of a U.S. tax subsidy this year is expected to make Tesla cars more expensive and could hurt sales.
At the briefing, Umeda said a decision had not been taken yet on how Panasonic would supply battery cells for Tesla's new Shanghai car factory. Tesla has been in discussions with other suppliers, including China's Tianjin Lishen.
"We have production sites for cylindrical batteries in the United States, Japan and China," Umeda said. "We are in the process of analyzing where would be the best to supply batteries."
To reduce its heavy reliance on Tesla, Panasonic has teamed up with Toyota Motor Corp. to jointly develop and produce thin, rectangular-shaped prismatic batteries, a type different from the cylindrical batteries used in Tesla EVs.
Panasonic plans to supply prismatic batteries to its existing customers such as Honda Motor Co. through the Toyota joint venture.
"We are aiming to develop the best batteries in the industry that would be wanted by a wide range of carmakers," Umeda said.