Sony Will Make Color TV Tubes at San Diego Plant

SAN DIEGO COUNTY BUSINESS EDITOR

Continuing its manufacturing buildup in the San Diego-Tijuana area, Sony Corp. of America announced Friday that it will invest an additional $100 million in its television plant here so that it can begin making its fast-selling 32-inch color sets here by next summer.

Currently, all picture tubes for Sony's 32-inch color TVs sold in the United States are made in Japan, then assembled with consoles made in Tijuana. SCA Chairman Masaaki Morita said Friday that moving the color picture tube production is in keeping with Sony's policy of manufacturing many of its products in the markets where they are sold.

The plant addition for the line of 32-inch-screen sets will be highly automated and require an additional 220 workers at Sony's 79-acre complex in suburban Rancho Bernardo.

Morita was in San Diego to dedicate a new, 165,000-square-foot plant for high-resolution color monitors on 33 acres that Sony acquired last year. Production of the monitors, which are used in personal computers and work stations, began in September and is expected to reach an annual rate of 150,000 units by the end of 1990.

In addition to TV sets and computer monitors, Sony in recent years has begun making in San Diego computer work stations and 3.5-inch "microfloppy" disk drives.

Television sets remain Sony's meal ticket here. The Japanese consumer electronics giant already is producing up to 1.7 million 13-inch, 19-inch, 20-inch and 27-inch TVs each year at its San Diego and Tijuana facilities. The plants serve both the U.S. and foreign markets, supplying 80% of the Sony television sets sold in the United States and 40% of the 4 million Sony sets sold worldwide, Morita said in an interview.

Sony claims 8% of the U.S. television market, up from 4% four years ago, spokesman Stephen Burke said Friday.

Sales growth for the 32-inch color set, which was introduced to the U.S. market about a year ago, has been the fastest of all of Sony's TV models, the company said. Morita expects the San Diego plant to produce between 250,000 and 300,000 32-inch-screen TVs a year, once it begins operating at full capacity. The sets sell for about $2,000 each, Sony official Clint Michaelis said.

Morita likened Sony's San Diego-Tijuana production hub to a tree that has grown from a small seed planted in 1972, when the company became the first Japanese TV manufacturer to set up shop in the United States. Sony now occupies 2.3 million square feet of plant space and employs 3,600 people in the area.

Sony opened its 260,000-square-foot Tijuana plant two years ago and is adding a further 200,000 square feet of manufacturing space there, Morita said.

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