In latest scandal, Nissan says exhaust tests were altered


Nissan Motor Co. said Monday that it altered the results of tests on exhaust emissions and fuel economy of new vehicles for domestic sale, in the latest case of misconduct to surface at the Japanese automaker.

Nissan acknowledged in September that it had been carrying out illegal post-production tests at its plants, allowing those who weren’t qualified to routinely conduct the tests.

New allegations of further misconduct surfaced while Nissan was checking its operations recently. The firm said it found the findings “regretful,” as it had been trying to correct its practices, and it promised to continue its investigations.

Nissan, which makes the Leaf electric car, March subcompact and Infiniti luxury models, said the safety and fuel economy of all the vehicles subject to the malpractice still fell within required limits. The erroneous testing does not affect exports.

In the earlier scandal, workers in training had been borrowing and using the “hanko” — stamps that are often used in Japan in place of signatures — of certified personnel. Because of that problem, Nissan has had to recall more than a million vehicles for re-inspection.

Such practices had been routine for decades, beginning as early as 1979, according to Nissan. Plant workers were aware the procedure was illegal and covered it up when government inspectors visited the plants.

Executives have taken pay cuts in contrition over the scandal. According to Nissan, the issues did not result in quality problems because they were the final step before vehicles were shipped out.

Japan’s corporate world has been hit by a series of embarrassing scandals in recent decades that raise serious questions about professional ethics in the nation.

Kobe Steel also acknowledged having conducted fake inspections on a large scale, over a period that spanned several years and affected products sent to hundreds of companies including aluminum castings and copper tubing for autos, aircraft, appliances and trains.

Japanese scandals are often characterized by employees covering up for dubious performance and questionable relationships to “save face,” sometimes out of loyalty to the company, rather than illegal enrichment for personal gain as is more common in some other countries.