It seems Japan's auto industry -one built on a reputation for reliability and integrity- is being rocked again by another scandal, this time involving one of the major domestic and global suppliers of metal products: Kobe Steel.
In a press release, Kobe Steel, Ltd. stated that they had discovered that their Aluminum & Copper Business division had falsified data with regards to some products shipped off to customers. The release stated that “a portion of the products traded with customers did not comply with the product specifications which were agreed between [Kobe Steel] and its customers”.
The statement went further, indicating that the “data in inspection certificates had been improperly rewritten etc. and the products were shipped as having met the specifications concerned”.
The products that Kobe Steel are referring to are flat-rolled aluminum products, aluminum extrusions, copper strips, copper tubes, as well as aluminum castings and forgings. The products with falsified inspection documents totalled 19,300 tons for aluminum, about 2,200 tons for copper, and 19,400 tons for the aluminum castings. The shipping period covered for the material with falsified inspection data is from September 1, 2016 up to August 31, 2017.
Kobe Steel says it has contacted its customers to inform them of the situation, and that they are carrying out a technical verification of the products and investigating further if other business units have been performing such “improper conduct”.
Reports indicate that customers for the products include automotive companies such as Toyota, Nissan, Subaru, Mitsubishi, Mazda and Honda. Other customers affected by the potentially faulty products of Kobe Steel include Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, and IHI.
Moreover, Kobe Steel also supplies aviation companies, most notably Boeing. Kobe Steel also supplies JR, or Japan Railways.
Some of the customer companies are performing checks on their end products; a report from the Financial Times said that Toyota, Nissan, Mazda and Honda are now performing safety checks given that some of their automobiles made use of the products that may have not conformed to specifications.
This is the latest scandal to hit the auto industry of Japan. A similar scandal emerged after it was discovered that units produced by Mitsubishi Motors for Nissan had falsified data with regards to fuel economy. The issue was resolved after Nissan bought a majority stake in Mitsubishi Motors.
On a more serious note, the Japanese auto industry is still reeling from the Takata airbag scandal wherein airbag units were built with lower standards; there have been fatalities attributed to these faulty units.