Samsung? Who's Samsung? That's what Panasonic is asking as the electronics conglomerate makes it clear it is looking to secure its position in Tesla Motors' plans to build a huge car-battery factory over the next three years.
Panasonic is now saying it expects to be the only battery manufacturer partner for Tesla's so-called gigafactory, Reuters says, citing comments from Panasonic senior executive Yoshio Ito. Ito says his company has been in talks with Tesla about its construction plans, and while Samsung started supplying Tesla's batteries last year, Panasonic, which makes Tesla's lithium-ion cells, is looking for solo billing once the $5-billion factory goes live in 2017. All Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said so far is that he expects Panasonic to be the main partner in the gigafactory. Tesla, when contacted by AutoblogGreen, declined to comment on Ito's comments.
Last fall, Panasonic and Tesla reached an agreement in which Panasonic would increase its supply of battery cells to Tesla by a factor of 10 within the next three years, and Panasonic says its already doubled its battery-production investment this year largely because of the California automaker. That said, Panasonic president Kazuhiro Tsuga said in March that there was significant risk involved in any investment in the gigafactory and hadn't committed to any investment as of that time. So Ito's comments may merely be a negotiation ploy. Tesla is looking for partners to shoulder about $3 billion of the $5 billion gigafactory cost.
Earlier this month, Lux Research estimated that Panasonic has a 39-percent global market share for plug-in and hybrid batteries. NEC has 27 percent and LG Chem has nine percent.