Lithium-ion battery producers are caught between a rock and a, well, rock, in effect, according to a study conducted by Roland Berger Strategy Consultants. At least as regards dollars, won, yen, or euros.
According to Thomas F. Wendt, partner at the consultancy’s Chicago office, “In this environment, battery producers can’t generate sufficient cash flow to make vital investments in new and more efficient production systems and in the R&D needed for next-generation batteries. Yet this spending is important for driving down material costs.”
And unless they drive down material costs, they won’t be competitive, which would, presumably, mean that they’d generate even less in the way of cash flow, which would mean. . . .
Wendt said, “The tremendous hype around li-ion batteries has left us with a bubble. Government support and far-too optimistic growth assumptions about electro mobility have led to major overcapacities. What is more, the ambitious drive to achieve economies of scale as fast as possible has triggered a fierce price war between the established market players in Asia and new players in the U.S.”
Which means still-reduced cash flow.
Roland Berger anticipates that by 2017, there will be no more than eight international players in li-ion battery production.
Wend suggested, “The OEMs have to review their supplier portfolio and find the most innovative companies to collaborate with. This is essential for security innovative solutions and significant cost advantages.”
Of course, arguably that’s the case whether you’re talking advanced battery technologies or infotainment systems. And those are going to be a matter of course in 2012 and in 2017.