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Panasonic Plasma, LCD flat Panels to Outsell Direct View by 2006

Panasonic of North America has disclosed that in the new fiscal quarter that began on April 1, sales of its plasma and LCD flat panel sets are projected to exceed sales of its direct-view CRT sets for the first time. By 2006, Panasonic's worldwide plasma TV production capability will reach 4.8 million units a year and the Japanese firm is confident the U.S. market will account for nearly one-third of that number--about 1.5 million units annually.

Panasonic has just completed an ambitious plan to reshape all of its major U.S. sales and marketing operations and will more than double its marketing funds to promote all its digital products, especially plasma flat-panels and DVD recorders. In response to criticism over customer service in recent years, the company has also vowed to improve the responsiveness of its Panasonic Customer Call Center in Chesapeake, Va.

The company plans to give temporary assignments at the Virginia call center to hundreds of Panasonic middle and senior managers "to heighten their awareness of customer needs." Part of this awareness, apparently, is what it's calling "Extreme Customer Satisfaction"--beginning with a 48-hour turnaround for plasma TV installation and service, made available first to members of Club Panasonic, or those who purchase plasma monitors online at The Panasonic Web site.