CE Companies Move Away from CE

Our front page story this week is about Toshiba and its travails. It’s not the first of the big Japanese CE companies to get into trouble, most of them have been in trouble over the last twenty years or so at some time or another. The company was not the one that we thought might be next on the list after Sharp as it seemed to have a good brand and real high technology in a number of areas. However, the company has been really dragged down by its nuclear business, it seems. The firm should be able to survive, but whether it still looks like the same kind of company is a real question.

The company remains in the PC business, although there was a lot of talk of a sale or possibly a collaboration with Fujitsu a while ago (although Fujitsu seems to be getting closer to a deal with Lenovo, at the time of writing) and the company dropped out of the consumer part of the business. There was talk about a deal with the ex-Sony notebook business, but I could never quite see the full logic of that deal and it went away. (The Vaio brand is still around and a mid-range smartphone was shown for the Japanese market at the end of last month).

The other interesting story this week is about the Samsung planned acquisition of Magneti Marelli, while Panasonic has now taken a majority share in Ficosa, which makes automotive systems. Now, Panasonic has an established business in automotive (and the General Manager of Panasonic’s Automotive business in Europe is Fabien Roth, once head of the Panasonic European TV business) and so an extension is no surprise. It’s battery business is a very strong one and has a huge interest in the success of electric vehicles. The company said that in January that it was working with Qualcomm to develop android-based in car entertainment systems.

Samsung, of course, used to have its own automotive business, which was taken over by Renault (which has 80% ownership) and became RSM – now said to be the third biggest car maker in South Korea, behind Hyundai and Kia (in which Hyundai has a large but minority stake). The company also had a heavy vehicle business, but it failed. So, Samsung should have some idea how to sell to the motor industry.

Of course, these deals all illustrate the move of non-Chinese consumer companies into areas that are not consumer electronics, a trend we have been seeing for a long time and one that will certainly continue. The increasing share of the value of the car that comes from electronics, systems and software makes the segment increasingly attractive.


The Tesla/Panasonic Gigafactory will be in full production of batteries in 2018.