NEW YORK (Kyodo) Vizio Inc. elbowed out Sony Corp. to grab second place in the North American flat panel TV market last quarter, U.S. research firm DisplaySearch said Monday.

Vizio, based in Irvine, Calif., commanded 17.9 percent of the U.S. flat panel market in the January-March quarter, up from 12.3 percent the preceding quarter, while Sony’s share shrank to 13.2 percent from 14.2 percent.

Samsung Electronics Co. retained the top spot with a share of 18.2 percent, down from 20.4 percent, DisplaySearch said.

Vizio grabbed 18.9 percent of the liquid crystal display TV market in the quarter, up from 12.8 percent in fourth quarter 2008, the research firm said.

“Vizio is a relatively young TV brand in the U.S. marketplace, but their strong alignment with mass merchant and warehouse club retailers seemed to put them in the right place at the right time with growing channels,” said Paul Gagnon, DisplaySearch director in charge of research on the North American market.

Vizio apparently stepped up production of flat panel televisions, mainly in Taiwan, for sale to discount chains.

Both Sony and Samsung curbed shipments to prevent excessive discount sales from eroding their profit margins, giving Vizio a larger share of the U.S. market.

As a result, overall shipments of flat panel TVs in the first quarter dropped 30 percent at Samsung and 27 percent at Sony while those at Vizio grew 13 percent, the research firm said.

Overall first-quarter shipments of flat panel televisions by all companies operating in the United States rose 20 percent from the year before but plunged 22 percent from the October-December quarter.

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