Japan’s automotive industry finds itself in the midst of a minor scandal. Last year, the Japanese government ordered manufacturers to investigate their operations after it was revealed that Subaru and Nissan conducting improper testing for decades. Initially, the issue seemed to revolve around a widespread laziness that allowed uncertified employees to conduct final inspection procedures. However, Subaru later admitted to employees falsifying emissions data.
While the problem does not appear to be an outright corporate conspiracy, some inspectors still decided to implement a policy they knew was against the rules to avoid questions from top brass. Likewise, senior employees advised inspectors to change test results for each vehicle that failed to meet internal quality control standards.
On Thursday, the Japanese government announced the inspection issue haS also touched Mazda Motor Corp, Suzuki Motor Corp and Yamaha Motor Co (which builds motorcycles and automotive engines). All three companies are now faulted for improper testing procedures and compliance failures.
Again, the new batch of industry faults does not appear criminal in nature, but does show Japanese automakers cutting corners. According to Bloomberg, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said that Suzuki, Mazda and Yamaha cleared vehicles for emissions or fuel efficiency even in cases where the testing occurred under invalid conditions. This resulted in slight deviations in the speed of the vehicles that should have scrapped the test results.
Japan imposes a rather rigorous final inspection procedure that requires a specially certified technician. In some instances, this person may not have been on hand to sign off on vehicles and an uncertified employee was left with the task. This process is only implemented for vehicles sold in Japan, and isn’t applicable for vehicles exported to other countries.
Since none of the automakers claimed to have found significant problems with the actual emissions and fuel economy performance of the vehicles, there are currently no planned recalls. That could change, however, as the earlier bout with Nissan and Subaru did eventually end up with Japanese vehicles requiring repairs.
Suzuki said that of 12,819 sample vehicles tested for fuel economy and emissions since June 2012, roughly 50 percent of them were “inspected improperly.” That’s worse than Subaru, which found that 903 of 6,500 sample cars were subjected to falsified emission data.
Mazda said there were irregularities in 4 percent of similar inspections on its cars, while Yamaha found irregularities in just 2 percent of inspections. The issue is believed to go back several years. In Suzuki’s case they stretched back to 2012. We presume those dates could stretch further back, as Nissan’s investigation revealed that the certification problem may have begun as far back as 1979.
While these problems have not been deemed criminal, they do place a black mark on the Eastern nation’s automotive industry. Major suppliers like Kobe Steel, Toray Industries, and Mitsubishi Materials Corp have also admitted to falsifying data last year.
The companies have all publicly apologized for their mistakes and are working with the Japanese government to get to the bottom of the issue. Meanwhile, critics are throwing accusations from every angle. Some claim Japanese regulatory measures and mandated inspection procedures are unnecessary, as others fault automakers for intentionally falsifying information and throwing lower-level employees under the bus to avoid repercussions. Since the government doesn’t appear interested in enacting an investigation on par with something like Volkswagen’s emissions scandal (primarily because the issue seems widespread but rather shallow), we’ll likely never know the full truth.