Business / Corporate

Subaru reveals unauthorized staff vehicle inspections in echo of Nissan scandal

by Shusuke Murai

Staff Writer

Subaru Corp. said Friday that it had allowed uncertified staff to perform final quality checks of finished vehicles, the latest case in a series of corporate malfeasance scandals by Japanese manufacturers that have shaken trust in Japan Inc.’s once revered quality.

The Tokyo-based firm’s revelation comes on the heels of Nissan Motor Co.’s similar improper inspection scandal, which emerged last month and triggered an order by the transport ministry for the nation’s automakers to carry out internal probes of their inspection systems.

Subaru said its internal investigation discovered that trainees who were not yet authorized to be inspectors were involved in quality checks of finished cars at two assembly plants in Gunma Prefecture.

The improper practice may have been in place for about 30 years, starting with the establishment of in-house inspection rules, the company said.

Subaru said uncertified employees have not been involved in final inspections since Oct. 3.

The firm has yet to determine whether it will conduct a recall of the involved vehicles. The company estimates that a potential recall would involve about 255,000 units and cost more than ¥5 billion. The recall could also include Toyota Motor Corp.’s Toyota 86 sports car model that Subaru produces through a contractual agreement.

Nissan’s inspection misconduct resulted in the recall of about 1.2 million vehicles, incurring an estimated cost of ¥25 billion, according to the Yokohama-based company.

“I am deeply sorry that this has caused enormous concern and inconvenience,” Subaru President Yasuyuki Yoshinaga said Friday during a news conference at the company’s headquarters in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward.

Yoshinaga said the firm will report the results of its in-house investigation to the transport ministry next Monday. The automaker will then decide whether to halt vehicle production — potentially until measures to prevent a recurrence are implemented.

Established in 1953, Subaru, whose name changed from Fuji Heavy Industries in April, has been doing well recently in overseas markets, especially in the North America. Its global unit production topped 1 million for the first time last year.

Subaru’s inspection misconduct will have no affect on production for vehicles for export, as the violations are connected to domestic inspection regulations set by the transport ministry, the company said.

Subaru’s misconduct is the latest blow for Japanese manufacturers, whose reputation for making high quality products has been tainted by a string of compliance issues.

Japan’s third-largest steel maker Kobe Steel Ltd. has been grilled over falsifying quality data for its products, including copper, aluminum and steel used in a wide range of products like vehicles and aircraft. The company said on Thursday that it’s still working to determine whether the products in question are safe to use.

Six other Japanese automakers — Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co., Mazda Motor Corp., Mitsubishi Motors Corp., Suzuki Motor Corp. and Daihatsu Motor Co. — reported that they have found no similar cases of misconduct at their assembly plants, according to Kyodo News.