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Electrical appliances for the masses
In 1927, the company moved into electrothermal products. Like the radio, appliances that produced heat electrically were luxury items at the time, and were financially out of reach of most households. Matsushita believed it possible to produce these products, meeting high standards of quality, at prices the average household could afford. In January 1927, he set up an electrical heater division, and placed Tetsujiro Nakao in charge of developing a mass-market iron. The iron was to equal the quality of existing products with a price tag at least 30% lower.
After three months, Nakao came up with a new design, in which the heating element was sandwiched between steel plates. Commercial irons selling for ¥4 to ¥5 were very pricey, considering that an elementary school teacher had a starting salary of about ¥50 a year at the time. Matsushita decided to set the price for the new iron at ¥3.2, but in order to do so, the company had to make 10,000 units per month\more than the combined production of all other Japanese electrical manufacturers. There was no guarantee that the market would absorb this volume, yet Matsushita was convinced that the masses would embrace a high-quality, affordable product. And he was righ-the product was successful.
The company then undertook production of an electric foot warmer, using a newly developed thermostat. The product's price was just half that of other foot warmers on the market, and it proved to be a runaway success.
In November 1927, Matsushita set up a research division, placing Nakao in charge. As senior engineer, Nakao guided the company's R&D efforts for many years, developing numerous new technologies and products. More than anyone else, he was responsible for making Panasonic a high-technology company. Nakao died in September of 1981 at age 79.
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