Mr. Konosuke Matsushita was the man behind the National/Panasonic company. As a child he was adopted into a family who owned a bicycle shop. He passion for bicycles began at an early age and before long he was creating new innovations for the benefit of the cycling world.
In Japan, Mr. Matsushita’s company was known as National. This presented problems when looking to sell products in other countries such as the USA, so the name Panasonic came about for use on exported products.
Mr. Matsushita was always passionate about his bicycles and he refused to put his name on something he considered to be less than a quality product. Perhaps this would explain why even the inexpensive low-end models such as the Sport 500 seemed to be so much nicer than the boat anchor department store bikes being sold at the time. In their heyday (seventies and eighties) Panasonic produced a full range of lugged bicycles and, at the low end of the line, their own premium steel rims which were thicker and rounder than anyone else’s. One might ask ‘why bother?’ with a steel rim but, if one’s doing it at all, Matsushita felt it should be done well.
Matsushita was also known for his Panaracer brand bicycle tires. In tires also, they ran higher thread counts and thicker treads than their competitors and established a reputation for uniformly high quality. Schwinn, again, forged a strong relationship with Panaracer and did very well with their house branded
“LeTour” label Panaracer tires. Matsushita developed the first successful synthetic tubulars
(which are still considered optimal for some track events in the 18mm 150g series) and the
first successful Aramid/Kevlar-lined tubulars. Their Panaracer tubular cement is still the premium
In a preview of Waterford’s business plan, Panasonic arranged the POS (Japan) = PICS (USA)
program to build premium custom frames and bicycles (over a thousand paint options!) with
a six-week delivery.
You may be surprised to learn that Schwinn, Raleigh, Royce Union, Suteki, Centurion and other labels all at one time or another had Panasonic built bicycles wearing their badges. Schwinn’s very first outsourced bikes back in the early 70s were built by Panasonic. These were the “World” bikes such as the World Traveller and World Voyager. Later on in the 70s, Schwinn made a deal with Panasonic to build the LeTour model which would become the second most popular model for Schwinn in the 1970s.