James Kotecki (00:08):
This is CES Tech Talk. I'm James Kotecki, bringing you an interview that I recorded live at the C Space Studio at CES 2023. Enjoy.
Hey, we're here in the C Space Studio here at CES 2023. I'm James Kotecki, and I'm joined by Megan Myungwon Lee, the chairwoman and CEO of Panasonic North America. It's an honor to have you in the C Space Studio.
Megan Myungwon Lee (00:34):
Thank you for having me.
James Kotecki (00:35):
All right. So Panasonic, I think many people have an idea or understand what Panasonic is and means, especially here at CES.
Megan Myungwon Lee (00:42):
James Kotecki (00:42):
In fact, I think you're on the cover. Panasonic is on the-
Megan Myungwon Lee (00:47):
It's not me, but we are on the cover, Panasonic.
James Kotecki (00:47):
The concept of... Yes, exactly.
Megan Myungwon Lee (00:48):
James Kotecki (00:50):
But how do you define the brand, the overall scope of what Panasonic North America means right now?
Megan Myungwon Lee (00:55):
So Panasonic is a hundred years old company from Japan. In US, we're here 60 years. We started as a consumer electronics company with the TVs and phones and so forth and we still have the presence in CE area. But as of today, what we announced at CES today is all about sustainability. So one thing that we're really excited about near term is our EV battery production that we have been producing in Reno, Nevada for several years now. Very successfully, partnering with Tesla.
James Kotecki (01:30):
Megan Myungwon Lee (01:31):
We just announced two month ago another large factory in Kansas with $4 billion investment, which will be operating in 2025. We're also showcasing a future sustainability technology, such as Perovskite solar cell that can be printed.
James Kotecki (01:50):
Oh, cool.
Megan Myungwon Lee (01:50):
And it can go on a wall or anywhere. Very flexible. But also we are showcasing hydrogen, pure hydrogen fuel cell generator technology that can in the future create a manufacturing operation to net-zero. So we're real excited, short term, long term, we have a great path for the sustainability that we can contribute to the environment that we're in.
James Kotecki (02:19):
And is the order that you just laid those things out to us kind of the order of how near term they actually are? So you're obviously currently producing the batteries.
Megan Myungwon Lee (02:26):
Oh, yes.
James Kotecki (02:26):
Printing solar cells sounds like a little bit further down the road.
Megan Myungwon Lee (02:29):
Yes, yes, exactly. But we want to make sure that we're contributing right now, but also have a path for really net-zero. We're committed to net-zero COt emission by 2030. It's an ambitious, but we have very specific plans and it's already started.
James Kotecki (02:46):
And when you say that you're announcing these sustainability goals, do you want people to think of Panasonic now first and foremost as a sustainability company? Is that the identity that you want to recast?
Megan Myungwon Lee (02:56):
We really do. Panasonic's goal has always been contributing to the society that we're in with the technology and the operation that we can give back to the community with healthy business in many different ways. I am really excited because in the past we're more of a CE company, but as of today, we have so much going on that we can really identify our company as a business that's really focused on the current and future of sustainability.
James Kotecki (03:28):
And this is highly resonant with the concept of CES 2023 being human security for all.
Megan Myungwon Lee (03:33):
Yes. Right.
James Kotecki (03:34):
And for those who don't know, human security is this kind of umbrella concept.
Megan Myungwon Lee (03:36):
James Kotecki (03:37):
It includes health security, environmental security, food security, all these different-
Megan Myungwon Lee (03:41):
Food security, right.
James Kotecki (03:42):
... sorts things of things. And I imagine that Panasonic's new identity ties right into that.
Megan Myungwon Lee (03:46):
Yes, yes. So I'm really excited. I'm with Panasonic for 35 years, and I don't think we were ever disaligned with our philosophical commitment with actually what we do as a business. And it's happening in this market.
James Kotecki (04:01):
Has it required Panasonic to change fundamental things at various levels of the business? Obviously it's one thing to kind of rebrand things that you're already doing or were going to do.
Megan Myungwon Lee (04:12):
James Kotecki (04:12):
But are there other fundamental changes that are happening inside the organization that are required to make this identity shift?
Megan Myungwon Lee (04:17):
So I don't necessarily think it is an identity shift. We were always, when we were a CE company, we had all the R&D and technology and manufacturing within our company. The fact that we're a leading EV battery manufacturer is because we have a hundred years of technology in-house that we're always working on. So it has been an evolution. We kind of grew up, but that's how we evolved as Panasonic.
James Kotecki (04:46):
Megan Myungwon Lee (04:47):
So I'm not sure if I can necessarily call it as a transformation, but definitely an evolution.
James Kotecki (04:52):
Yes. And very exciting.
Megan Myungwon Lee (04:54):
James Kotecki (04:55):
So how does your vision look for the future of mobility and transportation?
Megan Myungwon Lee (05:02):
James Kotecki (05:02):
Obviously we're talking about EVs and maybe eventually hydrogen powered cars, I'm not sure. But what's the vision as you kind of look... Because I mean, for a company like Panasonic, especially someone at your level, your job in many ways is to look 5, 10 years down the road and try to understand how we're going to be living our lives.
Megan Myungwon Lee (05:18):
Right. So the electrification of transportation is something that we're really passionate about from providing EV battery. We definitely are now, and we continue to want to be the leading EV battery provider with the technology and quality. We also have a lot of product that goes into a car and we announced a lighter and most energy efficient stereo that goes into EV cars. That saves 67% of the energy because it's lighter and fit to the EV cars perfectly. So we have different exciting products coming into the market, and it's really exciting to be in that transportation industry.
James Kotecki (06:07):
And do you see a future of continued individual car ownership in the next 5, 10 years? Or do you see any kind of significant change toward, okay, now I'm going to start using... And there is an alarm going off right down the hallway.
Megan Myungwon Lee (06:20):
James Kotecki (06:20):
If anybody can hear that, that is what's going on right now. Until someone tells me otherwise, we're going to just continue this conversation-
Megan Myungwon Lee (06:25):
Sounds good.
James Kotecki (06:26):
... if that's okay with you.
Megan Myungwon Lee (06:26):
James Kotecki (06:27):
So as you look at the future of automotive, do you see people owning their cars still in 5 to 10 years? Or do you see the uberification of it or self-driving cars kind of take away the need to own a car?
Megan Myungwon Lee (06:40):
I think we have the awareness that what works better for the environment, we should try and adapt to that behavior. I don't think it's going to be easy changing human behavior, but Panasonic definitely wants to contribute to the evolution of a transportation that's more eco-friendly.
James Kotecki (06:59):
And of course part of that vision, as you mentioned, also involves people being entertained and engaging with their media and their content, which is something that Panasonic, it's right in your wheelhouse.
Megan Myungwon Lee (07:06):
Yes, yes. Absolutely.
James Kotecki (07:07):
To use a car analogy, I suppose.
Megan Myungwon Lee (07:08):
Yeah, yeah.
James Kotecki (07:11):
What else are you thinking about here at CES 2023? Anything else you want to share?
Megan Myungwon Lee (07:14):
So we're real excited to be part of CES, we are here more than 50 years actually.
James Kotecki (07:21):
Megan Myungwon Lee (07:21):
And it has been really wonderful to partner with CES and CTA and evolve into a platform that we can project what we have become in this market. I know CTA is really focused on sustainability, so we are, and we kind of want to tell that story together and it's a really exciting partnership.
James Kotecki (07:43):
A true pillar of CES. Last question. I looked up on your bio and I saw that you're on the board of the Newark Museum of Art.
Megan Myungwon Lee (07:51):
James Kotecki (07:51):
Does your appreciation for art impact the way that you do business?
Megan Myungwon Lee (07:54):
Absolutely. So our corporate outreach is heavily focused on STEM, but I'm an art major. And there is a quality that art plays in individual growing up. I don't think it's all about the science and math, we have to have be a whole person. And we believe in growing as an individual and as an organization. And so STEAM is a wonderful way to really encourage that and that's why I'm part of the Newark Museum.
James Kotecki (08:28):
Well, it's cool to see an art major in charge of such a technology focused business.
Megan Myungwon Lee (08:32):
Technology. Exactly.
James Kotecki (08:33):
Megan Myungwon Lee.
Megan Myungwon Lee (08:33):
Thank you.
James Kotecki (08:34):
Thank you so much for joining us here in the C Space Studio of Panasonic North America. Thank you so much.
Megan Myungwon Lee (08:37):
Thank you very much.
James Kotecki (08:40):
Well, I hope you enjoyed that live conversation from CES 2023. Look up the CES C Space Studio for more conversations like that and get even more CES at ces.tech. That's C-E-S.T-E-C-H. And of course, please subscribe to this podcast so you don't miss a moment. I'm James Kotecki, talking tech on CES Tech Talk.