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Wed, Oct 25, 2006 - Page 10 News List

Sony executives apologize about battery problems

SEMI BOW The Japanese electronics giant said that metallic particles had caused the problems and there was no need for any of the company's top management to step down


Sony Corp executives apologized yesterday for inconvenience caused by a massive global recall in laptop batteries, but said the problems were now fixed and that none of the company's top leaders would resign over the recall.

Sony said improvements in production, design and inspection have been made to prevent a recurrence of any laptop overheating problems. Company officials said the problems were caused by microscopic metal particles that mistakenly got inside the battery, causing short-circuiting.

Sony said last week that about 9.6 million lithium-ion batteries are being recalled worldwide after reports of some computers using the Sony battery packs overheating and bursting into flames.

Staying on

The Japanese electronics and entertainment company said yesterday that its top management, including chief executive Howard Stringer and president Ryoji Chubachi, would stay on at the company and make the successful completion of the recall a priority.

"We would like to take this opportunity to apologize for the worries," Sony corporate executive officer Yutaka Nakagawa said, bowing slightly with two other executives at a news conference at a Tokyo hotel.

There would be no move to drop or curtail the company's laptop battery production, the company said.

Seated Bow

The executives were seated while they bowed and did not bow deeply standing as most Japanese executives generally do in public apologies for troubles at their companies, underlining how Sony has been reluctant to admit fault in the troubles with its laptop batteries.

Sony apologies came as major Japanese electronics maker Toshiba Corp said yesterday it is recalling an additional 40,000 batteries made by Sony for Toshiba laptops, bringing its recall total to 870,000.

Toshiba adjusted the total after a more thorough review of batteries that might need replacing, following consultations with Sony, said Toshiba spokeswoman Junko Furuta.

The company announced on Sept. 29 that it expected to recall about 830,000 batteries used with its Dynabook, Qosmio, Satellite Portege and Tecra laptop models. The increase does not affect any models other than those that have already been announced, Furuta said.

Meanwhile, overnight a voluntary recall of 340,000 laptop batteries made by Sony Corp was announced in the US. The Consumer Product Safety Commission, the government's consumer-watchdog agency, issued the formal recall notice for all US consumers.

The batteries, some of them in the Vaio brand laptop computers manufactured by Sony, could catch fire, the commission said.

Sony has maintained that the short-circuiting happens only very rarely and only in certain ways that the battery is connected in a system with laptop models, or if the laptop is used improperly and gets bumped around.

Only one case

Sony officials said yesterday that only one overheating problem was confirmed among 3.5 million batteries, although they declined to comment on problems reported by other laptop makers.

They said the batteries are safe and the replacement program is for putting consumer worries at rest.

But laptop makers, including Dell Inc, have blamed Sony batteries, and Japanese rival Toshiba Corp. has said it may sue Sony for compensation for damage to its brand image.

"We want to put this behind us," Nakagawa said. "I take this problem seriously and I want to finish the replacement program as quickly as possible for the sake of our users and corporate customers."

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