Matsushita to change name to Panasonic

January 10, 2008 11:05:27 AM PST
Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. will become Panasonic Corp., shedding the name of its charismatic founder in favor of its more internationally known brand. The move, coming 90 years after the Osaka-based company's founding by Konosuke Matsushita, underlines the recognition of brand power amid intensifying global competition.

Matsushita President Fumio Ohtsubo acknowledged he had mixed feelings, but the change will bring more value to the company than nostalgia would.

"We must create more than what we are giving up," he said Thursday, speaking from the Osaka headquarters to reporters in the company's Tokyo office via a video feed.

The name change was approved at a board meeting Thursday and will become effective Oct. 1, pending approval at a shareholders' meeting in June.

Matsushita, which makes a wide range of gadgets including flat-panel TVs, digital cameras and car navigation equipment, has been mulling changing its name to Panasonic for some time to avoid consumer confusion.

The company will also drop its local brand, National, for products such as rice cookers, washing machines and refrigerators, by March 31, 2010.

Brand power is increasingly critical. A rapid decline in prices for gadgets has hurt profits, and consumers tend to be willing to pay more for products from companies with strong reputations like Sony Corp. and Panasonic.

Konosuke Matsushita's rags-to-riches story and humanitarian views have been the pillar of his namesake company.

Like Akio Morita, the founder of archrival Sony, Matsushita is one of the charismatic entrepreneurs credited with leading Japan's modernization and economic success after its defeat in World War II.

Konosuke Matsushita, who died in 1989 at 94, has inspired Japanese corporate culture with his unpretentious view on life and work, and for insisting only good companies that contribute to social well-being can hope to succeed.

Known in Japan as "the god of management," he is famous for quotations such as "Business is people," and "Every person has a path to follow." He began his career as an apprentice at a brazier store when he was just 9 years old after his landowner family lost its fortune.

Ohtsubo said the decision to change the company name was relayed last month to members of the Matsushita family still holding positions in the group's companies. He said they welcomed the decision as a plus for the company's future.

"Rather than festering in nostalgia, we must make a decision for Matsushita's future," he told reporters. "This time, we are taking up the challenge toward global excellence."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.