Exclusive by Patrick Avenell

Pioneer general manager, corporate strategy and planning, Rob Thompson, has this morning said that Pioneer’s Australian office will not be closing down and that there are no local job losses currently planned.

In a wide ranging interview with Current.com.au, Thompson answered a range of questions relating to the local office’s immediate and future planning. The first question was about reports in rival news agencies claiming the Australian office was closing “imminently”. Thompson was forthright in his response.

“There’s no reason to print it,” he said. “There will be effects, but until we finalise our budgets for FY10 we can’t make any decisions or comment on job losses.”

On the withdrawal from the plasma panel market, Thompson said, “We’re disappointed for the company and for consumers. We had the best product and now we can’t offer it. We will look at carrying the Kura brand and technology into other products.

“The less brands means less choice for consumers. They won’t be in as good a position as it was three years ago.”

Thompson was keen to stress that the most recent generation of Kura panels, which is currently on back order, will be supported fully by the Australian office. The last shipment of these will be received locally in October this year.

When asked what the future is for Pioneer, both locally and globally, Thompson reported that the group would concentrate on its key categories in order to regenerate cashflow and stability. These categories include audio, pro DJ,  and in-car navigation and entertainment.

“We’re the clear market leader, in units and value, in audio and pro DJ business,” he said. “Worldwide, plasma only accounts for 14 per cent of our business.”

At this turbulent stage in Pioneer’s Australian life, Thompson’s message to retailers was to ignore the rumourmill and the predictions of doom.

“The message [to retailers] is simple: our focus in on our core competencies. We’ve been in Australia since 1973 as a subsidiary, we’re one of the oldest in Australia. We don’t intend on going away and we can offer a high quality alternative to the mass market.”

As for the Pioneer’s ongoing retail distribution strategy, Thompson reported that there may be changes in the future, but there will be no drastic changes in the immediate short term.