Panasonic, the bicycle brand of the mighty Matsushita conglomerate, made very nice bicycles, beautifully built, but never very successful in the U.S. market.
In the late 1980s, they had a plan to supply semi-custom bikes, using "just-in-time" production methods. The program was called "P.I.C.S." (Panasonic Individualized Custom System).
The frames were stock, but were painted to order (with the customer's name optionally painted on the top tube) and with a custom-length handlebar stem. Schwinn...the Schwinn Le Tour was the first non-Chicago Schwinn.
(text source: Sheldon Brown)
Japanese-built Panasonic/National/Matsushita frames are of excellent quality at each price range. You can distinguish them from outsourced bikes by the serial number location.
Osaka-built frames are serial numbered on the lower headlug. The second digit is the year, e.g., T5M78563 would be a 1985 frame
(from a posting by Yellow Jersey's Andrew Muzi)
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