New Panasonic CEO talks Tesla battery partnership and 4680 cell production

Tesla Gigafactory 1, where Model 3 battery cells are produced. (Photo: Tesla)

New Panasonic President and Chief Executive Officer Yuki Kusumi is taking over a leaner version of the 103-year-old Japanese conglomerate. Thanks to the efforts of his predecessor, Kazuhiro Tsuga, who spent almost nine years optimizing Panasonic by letting go of struggling businesses like Plasma TVs, Kusumi could now take the reins of a company that is ready to face the future. This means that Panasonic would be doubling down on its electric car battery business, headlined by its partnership with the world’s premier EV maker, Tesla.

Tesla and Panasonic’s joint operations in Gigafactory Nevada have had their own fair share of challenges, with the automaker putting pressure on its Japanese partner to produce more batteries for its vehicles. Over the years, Panasonic has been pushed frequently by Tesla to produce more batteries, particularly as the demand for the Model 3 hit its pace. With this experience in mind, the new Panasonic CEO noted that moving forward, the Japanese battery maker would be focusing its efforts on raising its output while keeping facility costs low. 

“It doesn’t matter how much you want to grow sales or increase profit if you don’t have the capacity to do so. Within our new structure, we’re going to polish this ability, and if you stay tuned, we’ll invest again in building supply capacity,” Kusumi noted. 

For now, Panasonic is looking to set up a prototype production line to test 4680 battery cells. The 4680 format was highlighted last year by Tesla during its Battery Day event, and it was framed as a possible catalyst for more affordable electric vehicles. Kusumi stated that if Panasonic could produce the high-quality 4680 cells more efficiently than its rivals, it would be making a “large investment” in the technology. It may also supply the batteries to both Tesla and other automakers. 

When asked by Bloomberg about its electric vehicle business, the new Panasonic CEO explained that EV batteries are central to the company’s growth strategy for the coming years. He also noted that Panasonic would work to refine its battery manufacturing techniques to keep itself competitive, despite the emergence of aggressive competitors from South Korea and China. 

“(The) battery unit will be one of the central segments of our energy business. We believe it’ll contribute to the environment, and we intend to see it grow further. Competition within the industry is quite fierce, but the battery business is making extremely large facility investments. It’s important to work with manufacturing techniques to efficiently produce batteries in low cost facilities. 

“Refining this ability along with further investments will give us the competitiveness to grow further. With the next generation of batteries, we aim to grow by not only producing high-quality batteries but also by making the production procedure more efficient and competitive while improving the competitiveness of our manufacturing. We’ll continue to challenge ourselves and grow,” Kusumi said. 

Watch Bloomberg‘s interview with new Panasonic CEO Yuki Kusumi in the video below. 

(Quotes from the article courtesy of Bloomberg.)

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New Panasonic CEO talks Tesla battery partnership and 4680 cell production
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