Matsushita has started to recall 6,000 batteries used in its notebook PCs after it emerged they could overheat if dropped repeatedly, raising further concerns about quality control at Japanese electronics companies.
The problem with the lithium ion batteries, which are made by a third party in an original-equipment manufacturing contract with Matsushita, follows faults in Sony-made batteries that in recent weeks have prompted the largest PC recall in the US.
Matsushita declined to identify the manufacturer of the batteries, which are used in its Let’s Note PCs sold in Japan, but said they were not made by Sony. It said the problem was not with the batteries themselves but with a peripheral component.
In the PCs that are affected, the latch used to connect the batteries to the PC is not strong enough, meaning that if the PC is dropped several times, a metal spring could find its way into the battery cell and cause overheating.
Recently, Dell and Apple have both recalled lithium ion batteries used in their notebook PCs made by Sony, in a move that is expected to cost the Japanese group Y20bn-Y30bn ($172m-$258m). Matsushita is already under a cloud after it was forced to recall more than 152,000 kerosene fan heaters made in the 1980s, which could cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
Two people have died from poisoning and five people have been hospitalised.
Matsushita’s recall came after the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, asked manufacturers to confirm that their products met quality standards, following Sony’s battery problems. So far, there have been two cases in which the Matsushita batteries in question over-heated and became warped after PCs were dropped.
The PCs, which were manufactured in Japan between April and June last year, represent just a fraction of the 700,000 notebook PCs that Matsushita makes globally. The problem is unlikely to have a serious impact on its profits.
Matsushita manufactures another series of notebook PCs, which is sold overseas and which can be dropped from a height of 70cm without a problem. The Let’s Note series is designed to withstand being dropped from only a height of under 30cm.