BrandArena: Panasonic Appoints New CEO

Friday 13 November 2020

Panasonic Appoints New CEO

Japan’s electronics giant, Panasonic Corp has announced the appointment of Yuki Kusumi as the company’s next chief executive officer. Kusumi who was the former head of the company’s automotive business will now replace Kazuhiro Tsuga, the man credited for masterminding a partnership with Tesla Inc.

Panasonic on Friday revealed that Kusumi will officially resume office in the new role on April 1 after thirty years at the company, during which he lead the automotive component business and the TV operations, much like his predecessor. Tsuga, 63, will become chairman.

The change comes in the wake of Panasonic’s blossoming relationship with Tesla, which was central to the incumbent chief’s strategy.

According to Reuters, strong sales of Tesla electric vehicles (EV) have allowed Panasonic’s battery business to eke out profits this year, following several years of production troubles and delays at the U.S. partner.

The 55-year-old Kusumi also oversaw the launch of a joint battery venture with Toyota Motor Corp in April, which took over Panasonic’s business in thin, rectangular-shaped prismatic batteries, a different format from cylindrical batteries used in Tesla EVs.

Tsuga in his 8-year spell as leader managed to steer Panasonic into a new market away from its conventional market of low-margin electronics to batteries, factory machines, and components. Panasonic’s partnership with Tesla includes a $1.6 billion bet on a battery joint venture in Nevada, which was signed in 2014.

The company focuses on business customers, however, has yet to generate stable profits, and the new chief is likely to be tasked with further overhauling a sprawling business portfolio that ranges from facial steamers to bicycles.

Price pressure on the battery business for Tesla could also intensify as the U.S. company has outlined a plan to halve the cost of its EV batteries and bring more production of the key auto component in-house.

Panasonic said separately that it would change to a holding company structure in April 2022, to clarify the responsibilities of each business division and speed up decision-making processes.

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