Sony: Second Major Battery Recall Will Be Costly

Just as the metallic dust was settling on the news that 4.1 million Sony batteries used in Dell laptops were the subject of the biggest recall in PC history, Apple announced a similar laptop recall a couple of days later (1.8 million batteries), with Sony saying the combined recall could cost the firm up to one-quarter of a billion dollars when it's all over.

How this setback might affect Sony's ramp up of PlayStation 3 this fall, as well as plans for its Blu-ray products and HD flatscreens, may not be fully known for several months (HD Notebook, Aug. 24, 2006). Sony said the recalls could cost the Japanese maker a minimum of $170 million--or as much as $256 million--to replace the packs.

Apple and Dell had reported rare instances of lithium ion laptop battery packs overheating, resulting in a handful of fires. Sony issued a statement in recent days explaining that tiny metal particles in the battery packs had made contact with other parts of the cell, resulting in short circuits. The pack is designed to shut off in the event of a short circuit, although overheating can occur on rare occasions, the firm said.

Neither Dell nor Apple was expected to stop using Sony lithium ion battery packs in future products and no major legal issues were pending, several days after the recalls. The double-whammy this month caught Sony at a time of much welcomed, renewed profits across some of its key product lines, especially HD and ED flatscreens.