Sanyo, and its parent company Panasonic, were recently fined over $56 million dollars by the U.S. Justice Department, along with a smaller company called LG Chem Limited, which will pay $1.06 million. Both companies were involved in a battery price fixing scheme that was considered so serious that the U.S. DoJ’s fines and charges are criminal.
The battery cells in question were part of a larger issue of the companies price rigging a wide range of auto parts for Hondas, Nissans, Toyotas, and Mazdas between July of 1998 and 2010. Because the conspiracy was so deep-rooted and dominated the market for these components for so long, the charges brought forth were among the most serious ever seen levied in the battery sector. And it isn’t over: Panasonic/Sanyo executives could go to jail over the scandal.
As far as the batteries are concerned, the issue did not involve the Sanyo Eneloop brand in any way, nor does the issue mar the brand’s quality and performance reputation. Instead, the battery components in question involved the fixing of prices on center local laptop lithium-ion battery cells, which were sold from April 2007 to September 2008. And even in those units, the price fixing did not affect quality or performance of the battery cells; this scandal was all about fixing prices.
till, it remains to be seen how the scandal could affect Sanyo Eneloop, and to a larger degree, the consumer market for rechargeable batteries.
In one sense, Panasonic is fortunate to see itself through the scandal with its Sanyo Eneloop brand intact, since it benefits greatly from holding what is considered to be the most premium brand of rechargeable batteries on the market today. At the same time, it remains to be seen if the shake-up could affect the R&D at Panasonic to the extent that future iterations of their Eneloop battery designs could lag. To be sure, competitors must see this scandal as an opportunity to gain more market share against Sanyo Eneloop in the rechargeable battery marketplace.
However, at the consumer level, there is little to fear if you are a Sanyo Eneloop enthusiast, as it is expected that the brand will continue to endure as the world’s best rechargeable battery.
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