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Matsushita Changes Names, Cuts Jobs In U.S.

Changes are underway for Matsushita Electric Corp. of America in the middle of the holiday selling season and on the eve of CES, with a name change and layoffs.

First off, Matsushita’s North American operations will formally change its name to Panasonic Corporation of North America January 1.

On the same day, layoffs will go in effect for over 100 employees at company headquarters here, and an undetermined additional number in facilities nationwide affecting consumer electronics and all other Panasonic divisions in the United States

In a prepared statement on the name change, Yoshi Yamada, company chairman, said, “Panasonic is the name that customers and channel partners have known us by for years. We want to take advantage of the tremendous brand equity and good will that research tells us is built into the Panasonic name, so it makes great sense to call our company Panasonic. In addition, we are also in the midst of a huge transformation of our company’s systems and organization. By putting the Panasonic name on the revitalized company, we want to underline the dynamic change going on within the organization.”

Nearly 50 Matsushita entities in the United States and Mexico, ranging from Matsushita Electric Corporation of America headquarters in New Jersey to factories and research and development units, will take on the Panasonic name between January 1 and December 2005. Similar changes in corporate naming will take place in Matsushita Electric subsidiary companies in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and Oceania, and South America over the same period. The Matsushita corporate name, which comes from company founder Konosuke Matsushita, will be retained by the parent company and its subsidiaries in Japan where it is widely known and respected and its association with the Panasonic brand is well understood, the company said.

Layoffs were described by a company spokesperson as part of an “ongoing transformation” and are part of a plan for the various divisions of Panasonic, “consumer electronics, business-to-business operations and others” to share services and streamline operations “with the goal making it easier for customers to do business with us.”

Employees were informed December 1 with the effective date of the terminations being January 1. Those affected will receive severance packages, medical coverage and placement services. While there were layoffs a company spokesman said that as “other posts open up” in other parts of the company those “displaced employees will have the opportunity to apply for those jobs.”

He noted that the plan is “forward thinking” since the electronics industry “is in a new era, a paradigm shift of increased competition.” All departments in all divisions of Panasonic are effected, including some in sales and support posts.