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by Mike Zazaian September 28, 2006 - 6:22pm, 1 Comment

An IBM laptop victimized by a faulty Sony battery

Due to an investigation resulting from an exploding IBM Lenovo laptop battery at LAX, IBM has initiated a recall of over 520,000 Sony batteries used in ThinkPad notebooks.

IBM and Lenovo announced today in a press release that free replacement batteries will be offered for several ThinkPad R, T and X series models that were sold between February of 2005 and September of 2006. Of the 520,000 batteries approximately 170,000 were distributed within the US, while the remaining 350,000 were dispersed throughout the rest of the world. Pricing on the recalled batteries ranged from $150 to $180 US apiece.

As with models with previously recalled batteries, IBM claims that the faulty batteries could cause overheating, posing a fire hazard to consumers. The specific models subject to recall are the R51e, R52, R60, R60e, T43, T43p, T60, X60 and X60s. The recall also includes any replacement batteries that were purchased during the above period for all ThinkPad T4x or ThinkPad R5x notebooks.

Stacked on top of the 4.1 million Sony batteries recalled for Dell computers, 1.8 million from Apple models, 340,000 from Toshibas, and 6,000 from a Panasonic recall in Japan, the IBM recall brings the Sony grand total to 6,766,000 recalled batteries, the largest such effort in history. While initial cost estimates for the Dell and Apple recalls ranged from $180 million to $250, the addition of recalls for Toshiba and IBM models should translate to well over 300 million dollars out of Sony’s pocket and more in terms of scaring off consumers.

In addition to the initial financial damages that Sony has occurred due to the recalls, the ever-expanding number of exploding Sony batteries has permanently marred the image of Sony quality. Since the fiasco began in August 14th, Japanese talk shows geared specifically toward quality standards in engineering have been abuzz about the damage that has been done to the pride of Japanese engineers and manufacturers. Surely the Koreans are laughing at us, said an engineer on one such show.

The mounting battery problems couldn’t come at a worse time for Sony, whose Blu-ray-ready Playstation 3 could stand to lose the company between $300 and $400 US per unit sold. As opposed to the 2 million units that Sony claimed would ship worldwide for its November launch, only 500,000 will hit shelves in 2006, with 400,00 going to the US and the rest to Japan. And while Sony is staying tight-lipped about PS3 development costs, Goldman Sachs analyst Yuji Fujimori believes the company could go into the red by as much as $2 billion by the end of the console’s first year in stores. With all these problems, Sony will be lucky if they don’t suffer the same fate as their faulty batteries.

[Lenovo Press Release]