Japan Business Report 2018

Presented by

Discovery Reports

Maxell’s latest automotive technologies reaffirm brand’s expansion ambitions in Asia

Maxell offers heat-resistant battery for a tyre-pressure monitoring system, a unique headlamp lens, and head-up displays and sensors for increasingly digitalised cars

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 May, 2018, 3:38pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 May, 2018, 3:38pm

[Country Business Reports interviews and articles by Discovery Reports]

From autonomous driving and electric cars to internet-of-things connectivity, technology is revolutionising the automotive industry globally – pressuring supply chain players to keep up with changing times. For pioneering industry veterans such as Maxell, technology is the engine driving the company to greater heights of success.

As the first company in Japan to introduce alkaline dry batteries, 8-inch floppy disks, audio cassette tapes and optical discs, Maxell is an iconic brand. It has a respected history of innovative product technologies built upon decades of expertise in energy, industrial materials and electronics.

Spurred by its new brand slogan “Within, the Future” and a management vision to enhance the quality of people’s daily lives, the company continues to carry its legacy of innovation forward with new offerings for the automotive supply chain.

“When people hear the name Maxell, we want them to know that there are technologies and products that only we can deliver,” says Yoshiharu Katsuta, president and representative director. “About 8 per cent of our revenue is invested in research and development to create our core technologies.”

Catering to a clientele of mega suppliers for car parts and components, Maxell offers four new automotive products. Its heat-resistant battery for a tyre-pressure monitoring system (TPMS) is the first of its kind to employ a sensor module inside the tyre capable of withstanding temperatures ranging from minus 40 to 125 degrees Celsius.

Transitioning from the standard halogen headlamp to a light-emitting diode headlamp, the company has also created a special lens using a unique plastic injection technique that competitors are unable to copy.

“We believe that Japan is a market that is already reaching its limits, so overseas markets are very important to further expand our business. Asia comprises a big portion of that”
Yoshiharu Katsuta, president and representative director, Maxell

Anticipating game-changing automotive trends such as driverless cars and digitalisation, Maxell has also developed in-car camera lens units for rear-view support and other sensing purposes. It is also working on a compact super augmented reality head-up display with a sensor that measures the distance between cars. To be launched in 2019, the innovation will enable self-driving cars to change lanes in the future.

“Our core strength is our competitiveness,” Katsuta says. “We work closely with clients throughout the entire development, from the very beginning.”

Established in 1960, Maxell derived its brand name from “Maximum Capacity Dry Cell” – one of its very first products. Today, the company employs more than 4,000 people and offers a wide array of products such as primary and rechargeable batteries, health and beauty care products, data storage, adhesive tapes, inks, functional films, projectors and optical components.

Since its transition into a holding company in October last year and detachment from Hitachi, the brand originally carrying Maxell’s health and beauty care products such as blow dryers and shavers, Maxell has embarked upon a new journey of growth.

Focusing on three key growth areas – automotive, home life and infrastructure, and health and beauty care – the company aims to strengthen its brand across Asia-Pacific with an eye on emerging markets.

“Supplying products developed with our own technologies in growing markets is key to our success,” Katsuta says. “We believe that Japan is a market that is already reaching its limits, so overseas markets are very important to further expand our business. Asia comprises a big portion of that.”

With 30 million cars anticipated by 2018 in China, where sensors for tyre-pressure measurement will eventually become mandatory, Maxell foresees growing sales for its TPMS. The brand also seeks to grow sales of its butyl tape across Southeast Asia, where the company maintains offices in Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, an adhesive tape factory in Indonesia and an optical component factory in Malaysia. Maxell also maintains offices in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as two factories for batteries and projectors on the mainland.

“Customer loyalty is very important to us,” Katsuta says. “We want to have customers that say ‘we only use Maxell products’.”