Until today, more than 15 million bikes have left Panasonic’s factories. Some of the company’s road bikes were even used in the Tour de France and by the Japanese national team in the Olympics. Yet, its products are still getting mocked as “toaster bikes” by some cyclists. It seems, Panasonic’s corporate image is so deeply shaped by its household appliances that its achievements elsewhere are easily overlooked.
In fact, the Osaka-headquartered megacorp has always been closely affiliated with the bike industry. Its founder, Konosuke Matsushita grew up with a family who owned a bicycle shop. After establishing his new company, its first bestseller became a battery-powered bicycle lamp. After World War II, Matsushita formed Panasonic Cycle Tech, solely focused on the production of bicycles. However, with the cool down of the bike boom and the steep rise of the yen later in the 1980s, Japan-made products fell on hard times in many of their export markets.
When Konosuke Matsushita passed away in 1989, it took no long until the company withdraw from its bicycle distribution in North America. A couple of years later, exports to Europe were stopped. In its home market the manufacturer still carried on producing cycling products to this day. Judging by its look, Panasonic’s current line-up of bikes sticks close to its classic forerunners. Part of its portfolio is also the Panaracer brand, comprising a production of well-esteemed premium tires.
Find more information on the company’s classic bikes at the Panasonic Virtual Bike Museum.