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Kobe Steel data fabrication crisis for aluminum and copper parts sparks car industry fears

Kobe Steel data fabrication crisis for aluminum and copper parts sparks car industry fears

Kobe Steel data fabrication crisis for aluminum and copper parts sparks car industry fears
October 11
23:58 2017


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A leading Japanese steel producer announced early this week that it had falsified data relating to strength and durability of certain aluminum and copper pieces used in car and plane manufacture, Bloomberg reports. Kobe Steel products were used in the manufacture of Honda, Toyota and Subaru cars, in addition to other companies that have not yet been identified publicly.

The falsification of durability data was discovered during a period starting in September 2016 through August 2017, which is a relatively narrow timeframe and one which is expected to be traceable down to the specific components used in cars. But company representatives said that suspect practices for production could go back a decade.

Toyota indicated that the affected shipments of metal were used in doors, hood and other peripheral components, according to Bloomberg, but has not yet compiled a definitive list of affected models and their components.

“We are rapidly working to identify which vehicle models might be subject to this situation and what components were used,” Toyota spokesman Takashi Ogawa told Bloomberg. “We recognize that this breach of compliance principles on the part of a supplier is a grave issue.”






While the crisis is still in its early stages, automakers have indicated they have enough data to trace the Kobe-supplied metal down to specific components and to evaluate their durability prior to ordering recalls, if any. Kobe Steel, for its part, indicated that only 4 percent of aluminum and copper parts are affected and that there haven’t been any reports of safety issues with these parts.

Still, automakers such as Mitsubishi, Toyota, Honda, Nissan and General Motors all purchase metal products from Kobe Steel, and beyond the immediate issue of specific parts whose durability figures were falsified, there is also the issue of trust in Japan’s industry. The Kobe Steel scandal follows several high-profile crises in Japan’s auto industry in which data fabrication or efforts to limit the spread of information about faulty products played a role; Mitsubishi was nearly crippled by a scandal involving incorrect fuel economy verification tests last year, requiring Nissan to take a greater stake in the company to bail it out, while supplier Takata’s use of desiccant-free airbag propellant tablets sparked the single largest recall of automotive components, affecting tens of millions of vehicles.
 


Mitsubishi admits to manipulating test data starting in 1991



While the damage to Kobe Steel appears calculable and survivable at this early stage despite the company losing a third of its stock value in a matter of days — one outside estimate cited by Bloomberg put the cost of recalls at approximately $133 million — damage to Japanese industrial giants after Kobe admitted to falsifying data for metals used in vehicles and (more worryingly) aircraft may be much more serious than the immediate cash costs. Japanese automakers do not need another scandal involving fabricated data right now.














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