- The Washington Times - Friday, September 29, 2006

TOKYO (AP) — Sony urged a dozen laptop computer makers worldwide to recall more of its defective batteries yesterday.

With the latest recalls, the number of lithium-ion batteries to be replaced now stands at about 7 million worldwide, Sony spokesman Takashi Uehara said. He refused to estimate how much it would cost Sony.

Two major Japanese electronics makers, Toshiba and Fujitsu, were the latest to tell customers to return laptop batteries that could overheat and catch fire. A day earlier, IBM and Lenovo issued a recall. Last month, it was Apple and Dell.

Dell, the world’s largest personal computer maker, also said yesterday it is increasing the size of its recall by 100,000, to 4.2 million, after it received more information from Sony.

Toshiba is recalling 830,000 Sony laptop batteries, and Fujitsu later said it was recalling an undisclosed number used in 19 of its laptop models worldwide, company officials said.

The Toshiba recall involves its Dynabook, Qosmio, Satellite, Portege and Tecra models, but regional breakdowns and dates of manufacturing weren’t immediately available, said Toshiba spokesman Keisuke Omori.

Fujitsu spokesman Masao Sakamoto said the company is recalling battery packs used in 19 models in two product lines — the FMV-BIBLO LOOX P and FMV-BIBLO LOOX T.

Sony has said the batteries could catch fire in rare cases when microscopic metal particles come into contact with other parts of the battery cell, leading to a short circuit. Typically a battery pack will shut down when there is a short circuit, but on occasion, the battery could catch fire.

Sony spokesman Mr. Uehara, however, said neither Toshiba nor Fujitsu have reported injuries or damage involving the battery problem, and Sony’s recall request yesterday was to “reassure customers and remove their concerns about accidents.”

The announcements yesterday marked the first time Japanese laptop makers were caught up in Sony’s massive battery recall.

It’s a major embarrassment for the Japanese electronics and entertainment powerhouse, which is in the midst of a major overhaul of its operations involving closures of plants and divisions and job losses.

While Sony said it was still trying to assess the extent of the damage and additional spending for the battery problem, the Japanese newspaper Asahi said that an initially estimated cost of $254.2 million could balloon to twice as much.

Sony shares closed 0.83 percent lower at $40.51 on the Tokyo Stock Exchange yesterday.

Toshiba’s recall was in response to Sony’s request, a company spokesman said, and Toshiba had not found any cases in which the laptops were at risk of catching fire.

On Thursday, IBM and Lenovo, the world’s third-largest computer maker, said they were seeking the recall of 526,000 rechargeable, lithium-ion batteries purchased with ThinkPad computers after one of them caught fire at Los Angeles International Airport this month.

In August, Apple Computer Inc. recalled 1.8 million batteries worldwide, warning they could catch fire.

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