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Sony’s battery headaches continue with more recalls

Sat., Sept. 30, 2006

TOKYO — Sony urged a dozen laptop computer makers Friday to recall more of its batteries that could overheat, the latest headache for the electronics company struggling to regain its luster as the world’s premier electronics brand.

With two new recalls announced Friday, the number of lithium-ion batteries that are being replaced now stands at about 7 million worldwide, Sony spokesman Takashi Uehara said. He refused to estimate how much it would cost the company.

Toshiba Corp. and Fujitsu Ltd. were the latest to tell customers to return batteries. A day earlier, IBM Corp. and Lenovo Group announced a recall of 526,000 batteries. Last month, it was Apple Computer Inc. and Dell Inc.

Dell, the world’s largest personal computer maker, also said Friday it is increasing the size of its recall by 100,000, to 4.2 million, after it received more information from Sony. Dell first announced its record-setting recall in August.

Apple followed days later, calling back 1.8 million Sony batteries used in Mac laptops.

Toshiba is recalling 830,000 Sony laptop batteries in its Dynabook, Qosmio, Satellite Portege and Tecra models. Fujitsu later said it was recalling an undisclosed number used in 19 of its laptop models worldwide. Both companies said more details would be released later.

Uehara said neither Toshiba nor Fujitsu have reported injuries or damage involving the battery problem, and Sony’s recall request Friday was to “reassure customers and remove their concerns about accidents.”

Sony has said the batteries could catch fire in rare cases when microscopic metal particles come into contact with other parts of the battery cell, leading to a short circuit. Typically a battery pack will shut down when there is a short circuit, but on occasion, the battery could catch fire.

David Yang, another Sony spokesman, said the battery cells in the recalled parts were made using an earlier-generation manufacturing process. Laptop makers, however, may have used those batteries in current or older models on the market.

The laptops being recalled by Dell, for instance, were sold between April 2004 through July 2006.

Yang said Sony’s current manufacturing process has since added more safeguards to “greatly reduce” the number of loose particles that cause the batteries to short-circuit or overheat.

“It cannot be completely eliminated but we’ve taken steps to greatly reduce it,” he said.

Sony said the battery cells in question were also placed in other electronics, such as portable DVD players and camcorders, but Sony has not received any reports of problems with those products.


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