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Sharp Christens First North American Panel Plant

Rosarito, Mexico – Sharp Corp. officially opened the industry’s first LCD panel plant in North America yesterday, which will dramatically reduce lead times and increase production capacity for the U.S. market, the company said.

The five-month-old facility, located in Baja California, sits adjacent to Sharp’s original Mexican TV plant, which began making tube sets ten years ago. But unlike its forerunner, which now assembles LCD TVs from sea-shipped components, the new integrated plant is building finished TVs with LCD panels produced on-site from glass substrate flown in from Kameyama, Japan.

The new approach will allow Sharp to cut lead times from nine weeks to four weeks, executives said, and will ostensibly lower production costs.

Sharp chairman/CEO Katsuhiko Machida, on hand for opening ceremonies, said the company constructed the $200 million Plant No. 2 “to be prepared for increased demand from the U.S.” Initial production capacity is 200,000 units a year, to be direct shipped to retailers’ distribution centers, and Sharp expects to ramp that up to 400,000 units annually by 2009.

The new facility produces Sharp’s Aquos D-64 Slim Line series in 42-inch, 46-inch and 52-inch screen sizes. The 65-inch model, along with 32-inch, 37-inch and older 720p models, are produced in the adjacent Plant 1.