Published: Wed, October 11, 2017
Economy | By Shawn Conner

Kobe Steel scandal hurts Japan's reputation

Many drivers are wondering and anxious following an admission by Kobe Steel Ltd., one of Japan's oldest manufacturers, that it falsified data on the strength and durability of aluminum and copper products used in cars, trains, planes and rockets.

Railway companies including East Japan Railway Co. and Central Japan Railway Co. said that the problematic products had also been used in some of the Shinkansen bullet trains.

The company said the fabrications, which might have started a decade ago, could affect products sent to as many as 200 companies.

"We are rapidly working to identify which vehicle models might be subject to this situation and what components were used, as well as what effect there might be on individual vehicles", it said in a statement.

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"Aluminium is a strategic business for Kobe Steel", said Irisawa at Tachibana Securities.

Some of the biggest vehicle manufacturers including Toyota and Honda are affected by an industrial scandal in Japan over falsified data relating to the strength and durability of aluminium used in the production of their cars. The products account for 4% of shipments of aluminium and copper parts as well as castings and forgings.

Automaker Nissan Motor Co Ltd this month announced a recall of more than 1 million vehicles after admitting that workers without proper certification routinely conducted the final inspections for new vehicles to be sold in the domestic market.

The ministry, meanwhile, said that no nuclear power plant has used the problematic products.

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Subaru has produced training planes for Japan Self-Defense Forces and wings for Boeing Co. jets such as the Boeing Dreamliner, according to a spokesman, who added the company was checking which planes and parts used affected aluminum. There are so far no reported safety issues, it said. Other carmakers, including Subaru Corp., Honda Motor Co., Mazda Motor Corp., Suzuki Motor Corp. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp., have expressed similar concerns about whether they received substandard metal and are still evaluating how it might impact their cars.

According to Japan Times, Kobe Steel said data was falsified to make the metal look as if it met quality standards. The rocket cleared all safety checks before launch, the firm said. The misconduct involved dozens of staff and possibly stretched back 10 years, the company said.

"These are improper actions that could shake the foundation of fair trade", Yasuji Komiyama, director of the industry ministry's metal industries division, said at a briefing on the revelations.

After conducting an in-house probe, Kobe Steel - which once employed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe - on Sunday admitted it had shipped products that did not meet client specifications, including strength data.

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