Gearing up to meet market de-mand for large-size picture tubes (31"-&-over), both Thomson Consumer Electronics and Matsushita America are expanding their North American production bases.
But even while production capacity is expanding to meet the needs of tomorrow, current growth in demand appears to be below some expectations, as evidenced by Toshiba's decision to extend its normal year-end closing at its Horseheads, N.Y., plant by two weeks.
Matsushita, which produces picture tubes here for use in its Panasonic and Quasar color sets and for sale to other domestic and foreign manufacturers, announced it was investing $80 million in its Troy, Ohio plant to give it the capacity to turn out flat-faced 32" and 36" picture tubes.
The plant is scheduled to begin turning out limited quantities of big-screen tubes May 2000 and ramp up to full production in September.
The Troy plant currently turns out 20" and 27" picture tubes for direct-view color sets and 7" and 9" tubes for projection TVs. The plant expansion will increase employment there by about 200 and increase Matsushita's investment in the facility to about $450 million.
Thomson, which is already North America's largest manufacturer of color picture tubes, announced it has signed a lease on a site in Mexicali, Mexico, where it plans to build a $200 million big-screen color tube plant. The plant is expected to go online in early 2001, and when fully operational, will have the capacity to produced 4,000 tubes daily.
Thomson's tubes are used in its RCA, GE and ProScan sets and also sold to other OEMs. Thomson currently manufactures picture tubes at plants in Scranton, Pa., and Marion, Ind., and produces picture tube glass in Circleville, Ohio.
It also has picture tube factories in China, France, Italy and Poland, and lays claim to a 21 percent share of the worldwide market for big-screen tubes.
Meanwhile, Toshiba, which pioneered North American big-screen color TVpicture tube production at its Horseheads facility, said that because of weak current demand it will extend to January 10 its regular one-week year-end plant shutdown. The extra furlough time will affect about 1,200 workers.
The industry sold about 2.9 million big-tube color TVs last year, and though sales were essentially flat in the third quarter of this year, it still is looking for an increase of around 17 percent to nearly 3.5 million for 1999.
Those figures exclude sales of big-tube digital color TVs, a category that is expected to add substantially to sales in coming years.