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Panasonic Must Reduce Reliance On Tesla, Outgoing CEO Says

Panasonic, one of the world’s largest EV battery manufacturers, must reduce its “heavy” reliance on Tesla, as a customer, according to the outgoing chief executive Kazuhiro Tsuga.

Let’s recall the Adamas Intelligence report, which indicated that about 90% of Panasonic’s batteries deployed in passenger xEVs in 2020 went to Tesla.

According to the Financial Times article, the plan is to offer and produce batteries compatible with vehicles from other manufacturers:

“At some point, we need to graduate from our one-legged approach of relying solely on Tesla. We are entering a different phase and we need to keep an eye on supplying manufacturers other than Tesla.”

Sounds like a reasonable move, but maybe a little bit late? Tsuga was the COE for nine years, and from April 1 will become the chairman.

The Japanese company is supplying Tesla with cylindrical cells (18650 type) for Model S/Model X and (2170 type) for Model 3/Model Y. The 18650 type, produced in Japan, is on its last legs, we guess, but still used in the refreshed Model S/Model X. The 2170 type is produced in partnership with Tesla at the Tesla Gigafactory in Nevada. Panasonic is working also on a pilot production line for the all-new 4680 cylindrical cells.

One of the most interesting comments from the interview with Kazuhiro Tsuga is that “Currently it is difficult to sell [those batteries] unless there is a company that is able to handle our cylindrical batteries with Tesla specifications”.

Other major manufacturers are usually not using the cylindrical battery cell format, but rather pouch or prismatic. It appears that they also prefer easier to use cells.

Panasonic was the primary Tesla battery supplier, supplying cells for all Tesla vehicles. But times change. Tesla is now developing its own cells (4680 format and own chemistry) with the intention of in-house production in parallel to production by external suppliers. Tesla also diversified its battery supply chain and uses also batteries from LG Chem and CATL.

For Panasonic, probably the most important thing now is to secure a volume deal with Toyota and all its satellite brands.

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