Tuesday 20 March 2018

Subaru faces £33m recall after admitting flawed vehicle inspections

Subaru chief executive and president Yasuyuki Yoshinaga during a press conference in Tokyo (Kyodo News/AP)
Subaru chief executive and president Yasuyuki Yoshinaga during a press conference in Tokyo (Kyodo News/AP)
Subaru is investigating whether it carried out illegal inspections on its own vehicles and if any recalls might be needed (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

The head of Japanese car maker Subaru has bowed deeply in apology as the company admitted it has been carrying out flawed inspections of its Japan-made cars for years.

The announcement by chief executive and president Yasuyuki Yoshinaga was the latest in a flurry of such scandals.

Earlier this month Nissan recalled more than a million domestically made cars because of faulty routine tests.

Subaru will submit a report on the problem to the government on Monday, Mr Yoshinaga told reporters. He said a domestic recall is likely, spanning the entire Subaru line-up totaling 255,000 vehicles.

"We are truly sorry, and we apologise," he said, after bowing deeply. "We all wanted to do the tests properly."

The government ordered car makers to check their inspection procedures after Nissan apologised for allowing unauthorised employees to do final vehicle checks for years.

The scandals have stunned the public and cast a shadow over this nation's prized "monozukuri", or production, reputed for quality, order and meticulousness.

Mr Yoshinaga said the faulty inspections for Subaru's finished products had been going on for 30 years. The workers involved did not fully realise their method was wrong, he said.

He said a thorough review of the entire inspection system is needed.

Workers who did not have enough experience to do checks borrowed Japanese "hanko" seals from authorised employees and stamped documents to show vehicles had passed the tests, according to the company.

The recalls are expected to cost 5 billion yen (£33 million), it said.

Subaru, formerly called Fuji Heavy Industries, is partnered with Toyota, a top shareholder. Toyota and Honda have said they did not have dubious inspections. Toyota said it was checking with Subaru on the reported irregularities.

Nissan is recalling more than a million vehicles in Japan to re-inspect them, and has set up an investigative team that includes a third party to get to the bottom of the scandal and prevent a recurrence.

The problem does not affect Nissan vehicles sold outside Japan and is not believed to have affected vehicle safety as they were final-stage checks.

But the scandal raises serious questions about ethics and professionalism at Nissan, which is allied with Renault SA of France and Mitsubishi of Japan.

Reporters peppered Mr Yoshinaga with questions about why it took so long after the Nissan scandal for Subaru to come forward.

"I always wanted to make my company a great company, and I now know we had not done enough," he said. "I am so ashamed that my company has become a cause for tarnishing Japanese monozukuri."

The industry has been hit by a series of scandals.

Nissan took a controlling stake in Mitsubishi last year after that company was caught inflating fuel economy figures for its minicar models, which are also sold under the Nissan brand.

Japanese supplier Kobe Steel acknowledged recently it had systematically falsified data on its products, including steel, aluminium, copper and other materials, affecting 500 companies including major global car makers as well as the aircraft, electronics and railway industries.

Volkswagen of Germany acknowledged in 2015 that it had equipped its diesel cars with illegal software that enabled cheating on US emissions tests.

Air-bag maker Takata filed for bankruptcy protection after 100 million air-bag inflators were recalled worldwide. The defect has been linked to 19 deaths and dozens of injuries.


Press Association

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