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Matsushita: The Electronic Giant Wakes Up

It's getting lean, going digital--and worrying Sony

For years, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., the world's largest consumer-electronics maker, never got much respect. Compared with the hip, innovative Sony Corp., Matsushita and its stable of Panasonic-brand TVs and VCRs looked like a lumbering giant trying to follow the leader. In the tradition of large Japanese manufacturers, it let front-runners set the trends. Then it simply reproduced the technology.

Not anymore. Since taking over as president in 1993, Yoichi Morishita has engineered a radical restructuring of Matsushita that is turning it into a more innovative and profitable enterprise. By carrying out the company's most ambitious overhaul ever, he has turned the Osaka-based company into a world leader in digital electronics. "I've cut away the excess and left the muscle," Morishita says.