By Eric Auchard
FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Samsung Electronics aims to re-launch its flagship Note7 smartphone across Europe well before year-end, but it could well be 2017 before the company fully rebounds from a global product recall tied to defective batteries, a regional executive said on Thursday.
"We fully expect (new Note7s) to be available everywhere by the end of November ... well before the end of the fourth quarter," David Lowes, Samsung's chief marketing officer in Europe, said of plans to get back on track in the region.
The Korean electronics giant has pledged to sell no new models until it fully completes the exchange of existing Note7S with faulty batteries, which pose risks of catching fire. An estimated 2.5 million Note7s were sold before the battery flaws led Samsung to issue a global recall early this month.
Samsung plans to resume Note7 sales in South Korea on Sept. 28. Sales are to resume in Australia and Singapore in October, according to the company, which has not yet disclosed dates for new Note7 shipments in other regions.
"We will be looking at the shape of our business and the forecast for that over the coming weeks," Lowes said.
"We are confident that we can start to make up any ground that we have lost and get that momentum back into our business... get that total momentum back as we exit 2016 and set ourselves up for a strong 2017," he told Reuters. The Note7 was recalled in 10 markets globally, including the United States and Samsung's home market of South Korea. Most of the affected phones sold in Europe shipped to three markets: Britain, Germany and France, Lowes said.
FIRST THINGS FIXED
To jump start the recall, Samsung began pushing out this week in Europe new software for all pre-ordered Note7 devices that limit the battery charge to 60 percent of capacity, sharply reducing the risk of meltdowns.
Besides offering stop-gap protection to users, it also serves as what Lowes described as a call to action to encourage consumers to exchange their devices for new ones.
The exchange procedure varies in different countries.
In Britain, Samsung is working with mobile operators and their retail outlets. In Germany, in some cases, the company has gone directly to consumers, offering a courier service.
Lowes said he is hopeful the exchange process can be done in two weeks, clearing the way for new phone sales.
"Our mindset is to be expediting this over that time period and not have it continuing and continuing," he said. Lowes cautioned that this goal may prove ambitious in practice, given the complexity of reaching consumers through its extensive chain of distributors and marketing partners.
Lowes said there was still pent-up demand for its marquee phone product in Europe, which was still largely in the pre-order rather than mass roll-out phase, with Note7 not yet available in many markets after launching in August. Samsung has no plans to scale back on its original marketing plans, he said.
"We will give Note7 all the support we were going to give it in the first place. There is no backing away from it," he said. "We created demand which we want to go back to fulfilling as fast as possible."
(Additional reporting by Se Young Lee in Seoul; Editing by David Gregorio)