Business / Corporate

Nissan to suspend registration of at least 60,000 new vehicles in Japan after inspection foul-up

AFP-JIJI, Kyodo, Bloomberg

Nissan Motor Co. will temporarily halt new vehicle registrations in Japan after learning that thousands of models were shipped from all six of its domestic factories after receiving final inspections from unauthorized employees.

The automaker said it estimates that at least 60,000 vehicles covering 21 models — including the Note, Skyline and Leaf electric car — may have been affected, but that number could rise following a full investigation, company officials said Friday evening.

Sales of the 21 models totaled about 1.2 million units over the past three years.

The transport ministry, which uncovered the problem, instructed Nissan to improve its business operations and urged other carmakers to check whether similar incidents have occurred at their factories.

“It threatens the entire (registration) system and it’s extremely regrettable. I will make sure that there will be no recurrence,” transport minister Keiichi Ishii said in a statement.

Naoki Yuzuriha, a Nissan official, told a news conference that the company apologizes for the inconvenience and anxiety caused by it. He added that there is no safety risk to Nissan vehicles on the road.

The affected vehicles will be re-inspected and registrations will resume as the checks are completed, Nissan said.

Regarding affected vehicles already sold, owners will be contacted in due course with instructions on how they can have their vehicles re-inspected, it said.

Nissan later said it will identify all of the vehicles in question and recall them.

The problem was discovered during an on-site inspection by ministry officials on Sept. 18.

Nissan has six factories spread across Kanagawa, Tochigi, Fukuoka and Kyoto prefectures.

It is not clear if the flawed inspection was due to an oversight or an intentional attempt to cut corners.

Last year, Nissan rescued Mitsubishi Motors Corp. through a capital injection after that automaker’s sales plummeted in the wake of a fuel economy cheating scandal.

Mitsubishi Motors admitted to overstating the fuel economy of four minicars, including Dayz and Dayz Roox manufactured for Nissan and sold under the Nissan brand. The mileage scandal hit Nissan’s earnings last year.

As a result of the fuel economy data manipulation scandal, it reported a group net loss of ¥198.52 billion ($1.75 billion) for the business year through March 2017.

Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors are part of an alliance with French automaker Renault SA, and are all headed by Carlos Ghosn.

Meanwhile, Nissan has been caught in another scandal in the United States.

The United Auto Workers has accused Nissan of illegally tracking and rating employees by their union sentiments for years at a Mississippi assembly plant where workers in August voted down representation.

In an amended complaint filed Sept. 19 with the National Labor Relations Board, the union alleges the automaker “continues to maintain an employee surveillance, data collection and rating system that records employee union activity and rates workers according to their perceived support for or opposition to the UAW.”

In the complaint, which was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, the UAW asked the NLRB to subpoena the automaker and investigate its claims.

Brian Brockman, a spokesman for the automaker, said filing charges like these with the NLRB “is a common tactic in an organizing campaign.”

“Nissan abides by all U.S. labor laws and respects the employees’ right to choose if and how they wish to be represented,” he said in an email. “This is another attempt by the UAW to ignore the voices of Nissan employees who chose to reject representation by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.”

The allegations follow an NLRB-supervised election held Aug. 3 and 4, where 2,244 employees at the plant voted against joining the union and 1,307 cast ballots in favor. The UAW blamed the result on intimidation, which it has alleged to the NLRB included threatening to close the plant, questioning employees and infringing on the union’s access to voters.

The UAW submitted a partially redacted document to the NLRB that it said is evidence of Nissan’s rating system. The union said the document lists names and employee numbers along with comments such as “has talked with solicitors at the gate before a shift” and “has been seen hanging with pro-union technicians.”

Nissan’s plant in Canton, Mississippi, builds Altima sedans, Titan and Frontier pickups, Murano sport utility vehicles and NV commercial vans.