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GE targets Toshiba's Japanese MRI share

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Leadership in MRI market share around the globe is neatly divided,with General Electric holding sway in the U.S., Siemens in Europeand Toshiba in Japan. But GE is looking to upset that balancewith a new 1.5-tesla platform to be marketed exclusively in

Leadership in MRI market share around the globe is neatly divided,with General Electric holding sway in the U.S., Siemens in Europeand Toshiba in Japan. But GE is looking to upset that balancewith a new 1.5-tesla platform to be marketed exclusively in Japan.The scanner, dubbed Sierra, is aimed at knocking Toshiba out ofits position as Japan's MRI king of the mountain.

Sierra is intended to go head-to-head with Toshiba's 150A 1.5-teslasystem, according to Paul J. Mirabella, general manager of GE'sMR division.

"The real thrust of the product as it relates to the competitionand the market (in Japan) is the focus on Toshiba, in particularthe Toshiba 150A," Mirabella said.

Sierra was jointly developed by GE and its Yokogawa MedicalSystems subsidiary. The scanner began shipping last month.

YMS already sells GE's flagship 1.5-tesla Signa in Japan. Butif Signa is a thoroughbred, Sierra will be a workhorse. Sierrais designed to compete in the high-field category but at a pricelower than Signa's.

"In order to cover the market fully, YMS thought it necessaryto develop another version of the 1.5-tesla platform," Mirabellasaid. "This gives us the flexibility of covering more priceswithout having to compromise the price on Signa."

GE supplied the magnet for Sierra, which is an active-shieldedmagnet of the same type as that used in the Signa. GE also suppliedthe system's coils as well as the image acquisition and reconstructionalgorithms.

YMS is touting the system's compactness, which allows it tobe sited in the same amount of space as a mid-field scanner, accordingto the company.

GE is leaving open the option that Sierra could follow in thefootsteps of the 0.5-tesla Vectra, which was introduced in Japanin 1990 before it made its way into the U.S. market last year(SCAN 6/3/92).

"There's the possibility (Sierra) might be marketed inmany other places besides Japan," Mirabella said. "I'mnot saying it will be. I'm saying that the possibility exists."

As well as being an effort to crack Toshiba's position in theJapanese market, Sierra is also a response to the maturing ofthe global MRI market, which demands products at a wider rangeof price levels.

"The global market is getting more mature in MR, muchmore segmented," Mirabella said. "It's an environmentwhere covering a couple of price points all by itself is not goingto play. You've got to cover as many price points (as possible)."

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