Using a Sony Vaio Fit 11A laptop? It's time to send it back to Sony. In fact, Sony is encouraging people to stop using the laptop after several reports of its Panasonic battery overheating and burning people.
On Friday, Sony said the Panasonic-made batteries that equip 26,000 of its newest Vaio personal computers could not only overheat but also catch fire. A recall is in effect.
It's reminiscent of days gone by, when Apple, Dell and Lenovo batteries were catching fire. The difference is, Sony made the batteries in those machines. This time around, Sony decided to rely on an outside vendor only to come to the same general conclusion. And Sony still looks bad at the end of the day.
Sony: We're Sorry
In a published statement, Sony said it discovered some of the internal, non-removable battery packs provided to it by a third-party supplier and included in Vaio Fit 11A released in February 2014 have the potential to overheat, resulting in partial burns to the housing of the PC.
"If you have one or more of the VAIO Fit 11A models listed below, please immediately discontinue use, shut down and unplug the PC," Sony said in the statement. "We are currently identifying affected PCs by serial numbers and developing a program to repair or replace the affected PCs at no charge, or to refund the purchase price for the affected PCs, in accordance with the program."
Sony went on to say that it expects to post a program announcement with details within two weeks. In the meantime, the company stressed, it recommends not using the affected models until further notice. Sony then apologized for the inconvenience.
As for Panasonic, a spokeswoman told The Wall Street Journal that the batteries in question were in fact from her company. She did not say, however, whether or not other PC makers also outsourced with Panasonic for PC batteries, calling that information confidential. According to the Journal, the spokeswoman revealed outsourced Panasonic batteries are customized to meet client requirements and differ from client to client.
We caught up with Rob Enderle, a principal analyst at the Enderle Group, to get his take on the fallout. He told us the battery problem sounds like an internal short-circuit.
"This could be a problem that's not necessarily with the batteries but a problem with the notebooks themselves. It's possible that they are too rapidly charging or too rapidly discharging to cause the batteries to overheat and fail," Enderle said.
"This is not at all the same as what happened with Apple, but given Sony's brand history with batteries it's still problematic for the brand. They are in the process of trying to sell the Vaio division, so it's bad timing. It would be like GM trying to sell the division with the ignition problem going on."