With VW running from diesel, Panasonic may get an electric boost

Volkswagen could help out Panasonic's battery production expansion.

Panasonic is planning to more than double its annual revenue from the sale of automobile batteries within three years. The Japan-based company is one of the battery makers Volkswagen may team up with as Europe's biggest automaker tries to distance itself from its diesel-emissions scandal by plunging further into electric-vehicle production. Maybe one day we'll look back and realize those Panasonic estimates were actually a bit conservative.

Panasonic plans to generate almost $4 billion a year in sales of lithium-ion batteries and other related products by the year-ending 2019, Reuters says, citing Panasonic executive Kenji Tamura. The company will be the exclusive supplier of batteries for Tesla Motors' Model 3, which has 373,000 reservations on the books. Panasonic is investing $1.6 billion in Tesla's $5-billion Gigafactory being built in Nevada and obviously hopes that revenue growth equates to a good return on that substantial investment. Tesla reportedly has held talks with companies such as LG Chem, Samsung, and SK Innovation to broaden its supply of electric-vehicle batteries, but Panasonic still has the inside track for those deliveries.

Volkswagen may push that revenue growth even further. VW is taking a close look at both Panasonic and South Korea-based LG Chem as a potential partner in the automaker's increased emphasis on electric-vehicle production, according to Bloomberg News. VW is looking to play catch-up with companies such as Nissan, Toyota, and, yes, Tesla, and has estimated that it may sell as many as 3 million electric vehicles a year by 2025. In fact, Volkswagen may invest as much as $2 billion in electric-vehicle production and has said it may build its own version of a Gigafactory in order to reach some economies of scale. Panasonic and LG Chem spokespeople declined to comment to Bloomberg.

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