Panasonic Continues Pivot To Auto Tech, Has Faith In Tesla

Tesla Panasonic

JUN 10 2017 BY EVANNEX 12

Tesla Model X on display at Panasonic’s booth at CES

STRATEGIC PIVOT: PANASONIC DEEPENS TIES TO TESLA AND BETS BIG ON AUTO TECH

As the inevitability of a major disruption in the auto industry becomes clearer, we’ve been reading (and writing) a lot about the companies that seem likely to lose out – Big Oil, incumbent automakers, some parts suppliers. But who will be the winners? Battery-makers obviously, but also providers of “auto tech.” This term includes the electronics that make electric powertrains go – motor controllers, inverters, chargers and the like – as well as self-driving hardware and software, and customer-facing components such as touchscreens, head-up displays and infotainment systems.

Tech companies are infiltrating the automotive space, making acquisitions and alliances to position themselves for profits under the new order. Last year, GM paid a billion bucks for Cruise Automation and invested half a billion in Lyft. Intel is putting its recent acquisition, Mobileye, to work in a partnership with BMW to build self-driving vehicles. Google is working with Fiat Chrysler on self-driving cars and providing display systems for Volvo. Israeli startup Otonomo is competing with Google and Apple to sell user data to Daimler and other automakers.

*This article comes to us courtesy of Evannex (which also makes aftermarket Tesla accessories). Authored by Matt Pressman.

No company is better placed to thrive in the electric, automated future than Panasonic, which is steadily redirecting its focus from consumer electronics to auto tech. In February, Panasonic named Tom Gebhardt Chairman and CEO of its North American operations. Gebhardt’s former post was leading the company’s Automotive Systems subsidiary.

Tesla

Panasonic Energy President Naoto Noguchi Gives Tesla CTO JB Straubel One Of The First 18650 Lithium-ion Cells At Panasonic’s Suminoe Factory In April Of 2010

“Our business has evolved… from purely a consumer business to a B2B business,” Gebhardt recently told Business Insider. “There’s a number of reasons for that: The commoditization of consumer products [and] the unfavorability in some of the cost models led us to look for better values in in-vehicle technologies.”

Gebhardt said Panasonic is devoting more resources to digital cockpits and vehicle entertainment systems as self-driving vehicles get closer to reality.

“If the scenario says the car drives itself, it’s similar to sitting in an airplane seat, because you’re no longer actively driving,” he said. “We see that as an evolution of the space that has infinite possibilities for us.”

Above: Panasonic shows off their futuristic concept for an autonomous vehicle cabin (Youtube: Panasonic Automotive Systems Europe)

Panasonic offered several glimpses of those possibilities at CES in January. Fiat Chrysler’s semi-autonomous Portal concept car featured a Panasonic touchscreen with facial and voice recognition. Panasonic also revealed a new system with a head-up display and augmented reality that’s designed to replace the traditional instrument cluster and many of the car’s physical controls.

Some speculated that it was a preview of Model 3’s user interface. A few days later, Panasonic CEO Kazuhiro Tsuga said in an interview, “We are deeply interested in Tesla’s self-driving system. We are hoping to expand our collaboration by jointly developing devices for that, such as sensors.”

Panasonic Tesla

Panasonic Opens New Automotive Lithium-Ion Battery Factory in Dalian, China

Meanwhile, Panasonic’s collaboration with Tesla on batteries gives it a large stake in the potential profits as electrification gathers momentum. Panasonic is one of the largest battery manufacturers in the world, and it plans to invest $1.6 billion in Tesla’s Gigafactory. And looking back, in 2007 Panasonic began working with Tesla on the Roadster and has established a strong track record supporting Tesla over the past decade — even investing $30 million with Tesla at a critical juncture (in 2010) in order to develop lithium-ion battery cells for its forthcoming Model S sedan.

A lot has changed since those early days. Nevertheless, global electric vehicle sales are still hovering around 1% of the market. That said, there are many reasons to expect a breakout soon. Orders for Tesla’s upcoming Model 3 keep growing, and legacy automakers from VW to BMW to Ford are responding with plans for new electric models.

“The future is definitely electric, no question in my mind,” Gebhardt said. “What is the future timeline? Is it 10 years, 15 years, 40 years? It’s just a matter of what the adoption hits at the scale that makes this a slam dunk… We’re pretty bullish on the fact that this is a space that will continue to grow and there’s value there.”

Above: Inside the Pansonic booth at CES, Tesla’s presence is felt (Youtube: Electrek.co)

Gebhardt conceded that EV adoption is slow in the US, a trend that may continue now that the federal government has shifted from supporting electrification to trying to revive the elderly fossil fuel industries. However, he characterizes this as “a short-term problem,” and points out that it’s a very different scene in China, the world’s largest car market. “If they adopt in a big way, that changes the balance of where electric is today versus where it will be going.”

Panasonic’s increasing investment in auto tech is already paying off, according to Nikkei Asian Review. At a recent financial briefing, President Kazuhiro Tsuga said the company is expecting an increase in net profit in fiscal year 2017, its first gain in two years, largely because of strong growth in EV batteries and other auto tech-related products. “We are confident we can achieve increases both in sales and profit for the year through March 2018 and later years,” he said.

Infographic

What auto tech opportunities are coming in the next decade? Check out this infographic for a few possibilities…

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Sources: Business Insider, Nikkei Asian Review / Infographic: Futurism

*Editor’s Note: EVANNEX, which also sells aftermarket gear for Teslas, has kindly allowed us to share some of its content with our readers. Our thanks go out to EVANNEX, Check out the site here.

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12 Comments on "Panasonic Continues Pivot To Auto Tech, Has Faith In Tesla"

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BenG

Don’t forget that Panasonic also supplies Toyota’s hybrid batteries.

A lot of people talk about LG, but Panasonic is the real leader.

pjwood1

A HUD doesn’t replace controls.

georgeS

wow.

That first video.

Autonomous driving gives me such a warm and fuzzy feeling. Look at that nice little family playing games and having “quality time” together while the computer drives the car.

Gag me with a spoon.

Boris

Reality will be exact opposite, you / I / we will be having to work from the car. It will be expected from an employer that you join a conference call from your car, etc. There will be positives and negatives to autonomous driving.

With all of the progress, I believe a work day should slowly come down from 8 to 6 hours, but I know this isn’t happening, if US still has only 2 weeks of vacation time…

Nick

I don’t think you’ll be to worry about working in your self driving car in the not so distant future.

JIMJFOX

excellent video, great commentary- NO MACHINE VOICE- hahaha!
But- here’s the problem, in one word- overpopulation. More humans, fewer incomes, result= WARS. Competition for ever-shrinking resources, water, land, clean air; what the economists call the ‘tragedy of the commons’ eventuates.
We are already seeing this in the invasion of Europe by millions of have-nots from MENA, [many of whom are additionally driven by theological impulse, jihad]. They see what we have & they don’t- and they want it, by any means possible. Or, they want to impose a puritanical theocracy on us, somewhat like Pol Pot’s lunatic theory of ‘year zero’.

AI is accelerating this process & I see no way to reverse it or slow it down. We are fast becoming ‘Masters of our own Misery’.

Pushmi-Pullyu
“We are already seeing this in the invasion of Europe by millions of have-nots from MENA, [many of whom are additionally driven by theological impulse, jihad]. They see what we have & they don’t- and they want it, by any means possible. Or, they want to impose a puritanical theocracy on us…” What a sad, zenophobic worldview you have, which I presume you got from extremist alt-right fake news sources. The people you are talking about are refugees from war-torn regions. They aren’t coming to Europe to take your iPhones and your designer clothes, your Beemers and Benzos; they’re coming to Europe, or trying to, because that’s where peace and stability reign. Now, you did make some important points in your post/rant. You are correct to say that the ultimate cause of this is depletion of, and group struggles for, resources. In fact, that’s exactly what wars are, altho we humans dress them up in fancy ideology and nationalism: Wars are group struggles over limited resources, with land being one resource. The civil unrest labeled the “Arab Spring” was preceded by a rough doubling of food prices in some regions of the Mideast. Coincidence? Not at all. As human overpopulation… Read more »
Dave86

Boris – I do believe the 40 hour work week will be a thing of the past, just don’t know when. My guess is that the the 40 hour work week would be replaced by 4 8-hour days.

Speaking for myself, in the next 10 to 20 months I’ll be moving to a 30 hour (3 x 10) work week and finishing up my career that way.

Jason

Unfortunately that is a problem with free markets and the US in particular don’t look after their population (working conditions, health care, gun laws, list goes on and on).
If the legal system doesn’t support the expected working conditions then competition will let the work aholics dictate everyone has to be a work aholic. Otherwise you have a system that that sets a 38hr week (or whatever is appropriate), and you have a right to only work those hours.

RC368

“Papi, look at that old dirty aqualung driving that decrepit car with poison gas coming out of it!”

Pushmi-Pullyu

I’m glad to see that Panasonic is jumping onboard the move to autonomous driving. So they’re going to offer sensors for autonomous cars?

Move over, Apple!

Too bad the rest of the article, and the discussion here, focused on everything but the most important part.