TOKYO - Kazuhiro Tsuga, the new head of Japan's sprawling electronics maker Panasonic Corp, has set a priority to get the lumbering and loss-making company to make decisions quickly.
The 55-year-old, three-decade Panasonic veteran replaces Fumio Ohtsubo, 66, who moves to the chairman's office where he will still wield some influence over business strategy in a corporate culture that tends to take its time when it comes to making decisions.
"My main concern is whether I can instill a sense of speed,"Tsuga told reporters at a briefing on Wednesday.
Panasonic, founded as a plug maker almost a century ago when Japan embraced electricity, has to move rapidly. It has warned of a record 780 billion yen (S$12.15 billion) loss for the year to end-March.
Much of that - some 580 billion yen - is for restructuring operations and cutting costs, particularly in the struggling TV business, which Tsuga has led since April.
But he comes to the top job with a record for taking tough decisions and turning businesses around.
A fluent English speaker who completed his education in California, Tsuga last year unveiled plans to end production at a plasma panel plant in the southern industrial city of Amagaski, which had only been completed two years earlier and had capacity to produce 330,000 screens a year.
He will be Panasonic's youngest chief from outside the group's founding family, and his appointment is something of a departure in Japan, where promotion is traditionally age-based.
"At 55, I don't feel that young," he quipped.
Turning down the volume
Tsuga has said he will pursue profit over volume, and pledged to get the ailing TV business back on a firm footing within 2 years.
That will be some challenge, and analysts say the blood letting - Ohtsubo's cost-cutting axed 17,000 jobs - may not be enough if TV sales continue to shrink.
By 2015, flat panel industry research company DisplaySearch reckons annual global sales of liquid crystal TVs will contract by 8 per cent to US$92 billion.
Plasma sets, a market Panasonic dominates, will decline 38 per cent to US$7 billion.
Even the deep staff cuts leave the sprawling conglomerate fatter than its rivals.
The group's vast product range stretches from refrigerators, TVs and sound systems to batteries and nose-hair trimmers, as well as running old folks' homes.
A global workforce of 350,000 is treble that of Samsung Electronics, double Sony's and 60,000 more than General Electric, whose revenue is US$30 billion higher.
For every worker, Panasonic generates revenue of around 23 million yen (US$285,700) a year, compared with nearly 43 million yen at Sony and over 55 million yen at Sharp, Thomson Reuters data shows.