It’s been a busy week for Panasonic Australia. Last Friday the company announced the impending retirement of managing director Steve Rust and the appointment of new MD Paul Reid, effective from April. Today, the appointment announcements continued with news that the company’s general manager of marketing, Richard Tassone, will take on a new role as the director of Panasonic Australia’s Consumer Electronics Group [CEG], responsible for two newly defined divisions: the Home Appliance and Air Conditioning group, and the Home Entertainment and Imaging group.

Paul Reid was the company’s last CEG director, but on his departure to head up Panasonic’s Nordic division, the Australian subsidiary filled his role with a Consumer Leadership Team including then marketing manager Tassone, GM for channel sales Grant Sforcina, and national sales operations manager Steve Sutherland. Now that Reid has returned to head up Panasonic Australia, Tassone has also risen through the ranks and Panasonic is on track for a busy year.

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Appliance Retailer spoke to Tassone about the changes to Panasonic’s management team, what the two newly created divisions would bring to the company and what he wants from the year ahead.

The restructure announced today will see Panasonic divide its business into a Home Appliance and Air Conditioning group and a Home Entertainment and Imaging group. What was the thinking behind creating these two groups?

With my change of role, it gave me an opportunity to review the business needs and what we need moving forward. One thing in the marketplace is we’ve got to work smarter and faster. I think the way the increased demands on business are, we needed to put some additional resources into the analytical side of the business and just to become smarter and quicker, and to allow our teams to work a lot more efficiently and at a higher level. I’m extremely happy with the structure I put in place because I see this as not just good for today, but it allows us some flexibility as we move forward with the demands of the marketplace and the business.

Is the dual focus on home appliances and home entertainment representative of where the broader industry is sitting?

Yes it is to a degree, but it’s also a natural fit for the way we have our business set up internally, so it’s not just something that suits the external market. Before, we had two people in our TV and imaging area and two people in home appliances and air conditioning — this allows a lot more efficient reporting and it allows us to put more resources into the business.

What will retailers see with these changes?

I think our retail customers will be supportive of the change. Not that they’d see anything wrong with the old structure, but I think this just shows that Panasonic is willing to change the structure to better suit their needs. We hope our customers will see Panasonic becoming quicker, more efficient and smarter.

Paul Reid is a familiar face at Panasonic Australia — what will it be like working with him again?

I’ve got a lot of experience dealing with Paul [and] I think our customers will be supportive of the move because they know Paul and our business. To us it will be business as usual. Really I think the best thing with Paul will be to thaw him out and get him out of the cold! Jokes aside, I think his experience in Europe is going to pay dividends to us here in Australia by getting his general experience. Steve’s done a fantastic job in the time he’s been here and to have someone like Steve move on in his next stage and have someone like Paul come back in, it’s quite a good change for a business. Not all change is always good, but this is one where we go from one strong MD to another strong MD, and I think that’s going to be a benefit for our business.

With these big changes out of the way, what lies ahead for Panasonic in 2014?

The first of April is the start of our financial year, so all these structural changes and resource changes are at the right timing for us. From the first of April, we’re full steam ahead. We’ve got some fantastic product coming through with Viera, especially with 4K product. We’ve got a new camera line-up which will come throughout the year, we’ve got new products that will be released within whitegoods as well and across air conditioning. So really across the whole span of our company we’ve got new and exciting products, new evolution of product and some new ideas coming to the marketplace, so we’re setting ourselves up for that.

To us internally, [the restructure] is probably something that’s more of an evolution for us than a massive change. It’s resetting our foundations for the future, and our foundations are extremely firm. There are changes happening, but I think there’s a lot of familiar faces and strong management structures that we’re putting in place, and our team are definitely excited and ready for the year ahead.