The National brand name was used by an Adelaide valve radio manufacturer until the late 1950s.
With the advent of transistor radios in the late 1950s Japanese manufacturers started to enter the Australian market. Matsushita was one of the early major players, along with direct rival Sony.
Matsushita was formed by Kōnosuke Matsushita in 1918 as a lamp base vendor. By 1927 he was manufacturing bicycle lamps. These were sold acoss Japan, so the company settled on the National brand name. As time went on the company expanded into many other products such as domestic irons, electric motors, and radio equipment. By the Second World War. Matsushita had opened manufacturing plants in other parts of Asia.
Post World War II, the Matsushita group, largely having been split into MEI (Matsushita Electronic Industries – the consumer arm) and MEW (Matsushita Electric Works the industrial division) by the dissolution imposed by the occupation forces. Imperfectly regrouped as a Keiretsu the MEI division began to supply the post-war boom in Japan with radios and appliances, as well as bicycles. At this time Matsushita’s brother-in-law, Toshio Iue, founded Sanyo as a subcontractor for components. Sanyo grew to become a competitor to Matsushita, but was acquired by Panasonic in December 2009.
Post World War Two
The occupying forces imposed many rules on Japanese companies and they weren’t allowed to export products that would be in direct competion with United States companies, yet were encouraged to raise foreign income. Matsushita had made bicycles and lamps prior to the war, so exported those to the U.S.A. where they sold well.
This allowed Matsushita to very quickly expand their appliance range, and to expand their radio products from military to consumer. Matsushita had made valves during the war so this was a natural progression. However, Matsushita couldn’t use the National brand in Northern America due to there already being a National radio company. Matsushita was considered a mouthful and to “Japanese” for Americans, so the PanaSonic brand formed. National and Panasonic were used in various markets in various combinations. Due to Astor owning the National brand in Australia products destined for here bore the National Panasonic branding with the “N” logo.
With the renaissance of television in the U.S., Matsushita began to produce TVs, in the very early 1950s, for the U.S. market, and the domestic Japanese market.
From the mid 1960s a high end audio brand, Technics, was formed to take advantage of the burgoning market for audio equipment. Some of this is quite highly regarded, such as the SL1200 turntable, but most is run of the mill.
The formal introduction of National Panasonic branded products into the local market is unclear.
Radios seem to have been sold here from the late 1950s/early 1960s. Certainly by 1964 they were being imported in large numbers.
In 1968 Matsushita set up a Television plant in Penrith west of Sydney in anticipation of colour broadcasts. This didn’t happen until seven years later, 1 March 1975. However, their all transistor (excepting the picture tube of course) sets proved to be very reliable and popular. Picture tube manufacture continued at the plant until 2006, when CRT ceased worldwide. By this stage LCD based screens had taken over.
Radios were produced in small numbers at the plant, most notably the R 70.
Matsushita is still in the Australian market with a limited range of televisions, and radios. Their Lumix range of cameras sell quite well, and they also still sell industrial video equipment. They also have their brand a range of domestic appliances such as Microwave ovens, vacum cleaners, and jucers. Whether, with the exception of the cameras and industrial video equiment, these are actually made by Matsushita or brand engineered genric products is questionable. However, like most formerly dominant manufacturers, their main focus today is on the automotive and industrial markets. They also make medical equipment.
Throughout, Matsushita, and their brands National, Panasonic, and Technics, never quite reached the innovation or quality of their competitor Sony. While Sony was a leader, Matsushita was content to sit back and make (good) copies.