Korean manufacturers are overtaking their Japanese rivals in the lithium-ion battery market, repeating the story of the semiconductor, shipbuilding and TV industries. Japanese manufacturers had a solid lead in the global lithium-ion battery market for the last 20 years, with the product touted as the next growth engine of the electronics industry.
The Institute of Information Technology, a Japanese IT market research firm, in a recent report forecast Korea will replace Japan as the leader of the mid-sized to small lithium-ion battery market with an estimated global market share of 38.5 percent this year compared to 38.4 percent for Japan.
In terms of individual manufacturers, Korean companies have already overtaken their Japanese rivals. Last year, 11 years since it began making the batteries, Samsung SDI overtook Sanyo to become the world's top manufacturer, according to IIT. LG Chem rose to third place. This trend is clearly evident in output performance so far this year. Sources at Samsung SDI and LG Chem say Korean producers increased output in the first quarter of this year, while Japanese manufacturers cut back production.
Lithium-ion batteries account for 76 percent of the global market for rechargeable batteries, which is worth an estimated W20 trillion (US$1=W1,091) this year and expected to surge to W104 trillion by 2020 on the back of smartphones and electric cars, according to market researchers. That is almost as much as the global market for memory chips, which is forecast to reach around W124 trillion by 2020.