By on October 20, 2017

2018 Toyota Camry Georgetown Kentucky assembly plant - Image: Toyota

Kobe Steel, the disgraced Japanese metal supplier, apparently falsified quality data for its products for over 10 years, the company now admits. Some of those products were sheetmetal and aluminum components used by a slew of automakers, among them American, Japanese, French, German, and Swedish manufacturers.

Makers of trains and airliners also made use of the metals, the strength and durability of which is now in doubt. This week, the European Aviation Safety Agency warned against components made by Kobe Steel.

While Boeing and Airbus inspect their aircraft, automakers are doing the same. Ford has said there’s no reason to be concerned, as Kobe product only went into the hood of a Chinese-market sedan. Now, four other automakers have given their vehicles a clean bill of health.

According to Reuters, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and Mazda — four of the five Japanese automakers to use Kobe parts in hoods and other exterior components — says tests show the parts are safe. Mitsubishi hasn’t yet issued an all-safe message.

In a statement, Toyota said, “We confirmed that the materials satisfy applicable statutory standards, and our own internal standard, for key safety and durability requirements for vehicles.”

Other automakers impacted by the scandal include General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, Volvo, and Hyundai. While Japanese automaker seem okay with what Kobe shipped to their factories, the industry as a whole wonders how it can trust the supplier. In total, 500 companies use Kobe components and materials.

“For a manufacturer, quality control is the most important thing and they were cheating for many years,” one senior industry executive told Reuters. “This was a shock to their customers, who can no longer trust Kobe Steel.”

Kobe’s CEO claims he wants to make right with the industry, starting with discovering how the culture of falsifying quality reports began and spread. Once that’s wrapped up, and all parts identified and inspected, Hiroya Kawasaki says he will resign. Meanwhile, the supplier is bracing for lawsuits even as the company’s stock takes a Volkswagen-like nosedive.

[Image: Toyota]

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23 Comments on “Despite Falsified Supplier Data, Japanese Automakers Claim Cars Are Safe...”

  • avatar

    First Takata, now Kobe Steel. For many, they say they won’t/don’t trust Chinese manufactured items because of a culture of cost-cutting and shortcuts. It seems it’s not just China that has that culture…

    • 0 avatar

      Oh there have been other examples as well. Look up Koito airline seats.

      When you have a culture where there is immense pressure to perform well and where failure is not an option…

    • 0 avatar

      The world can not trust the Japanese, The Chinese or the Koreans. They have a notorious history of suppling substandard products. Why would anyone not test the quality of products received by any foreign country. Guess who has egg on their face? THE MANUFACTURERS!!!!!!!

  • avatar

    If that photo was of a Malibu rolling off the flat top, somebody would surely comment “Why don’t the UAW workers wear proper uniforms ?”.. That, and they all look like overweight, ball cap wearing slobs. ”

    Just saying .

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Good call.

    • 0 avatar

      I know Honda puts everyone in white jumpsuits, line workers and managers alike. Allegedly it’s for a sense of equality, but also efficiency — the theory being that grease or paint on the white uniform can indicate an area for process improvement. I have to admire them, even if I generally hate their consumer cars.

      • 0 avatar

        Off topic..GM will supply blue coveralls for anybody that wants them..In some areas GM will facilitate laundry, if desired . In paint everybody wears mandatory, lint free coveralls..I was a shipper/ receiver, as such it was “suggested ” that I wear a collared shirt..I always did.

    • 0 avatar

      I distinctly recall an image used from a GM assembly plant where the women in the picture were wearing shorts, dangly jewelry, and were without eye protection. UAW or no, GM or no, that is or should be an inaccurate depiction of an assembly plant environment.

      I see nothing in the picture above to prompt such criticism.

    • 0 avatar

      Today, and for many, many years, the unions only job has been to protect the lazy, the stupid and the unskilled workers. The union has long outlived their usefulness. Tell that to the business managers that live in the big house and drive a very expensive car. They will do whatever it takes to keep their union, and there union hall, Alive at any cost. That cost is passed on to the consumer.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    If their process controls were in place and functional, then the falsified reports are probably moot in practice.

    I don’t know how robust Kobe Steel is, but this sort of thing could ruin the company. I can’t see a major customer signing a PO with them now, unless Kobe impresses with price discounts, quick delivery, free engineering support, etc.

  • avatar

    I have always believed that companies in certain countries are protected by their own government from the scrutiny of the public for wrongdoing and bad behavior. I have a suspicion that corruption and graft exists at the same levels in all countries. It just takes on a different form and reforms to survive no matter what is done to stop it.

  • avatar

    “Ford has said there is no reason for concern”

    That’s going to bite them in the arse six months from now when the panels on a Ford whatever peel off and go flying through a bus packed with nuns and special needs kids.

    • 0 avatar

      *eye roll*
      Of course, because that could never happen to Toyota or Nissan or any number of manufacturers that also used Kobe products. Even when its clearly the Japanese company’s fault, its the American company that screwed up.

      • 0 avatar

        Well… Ford once made everything that went on its cars, and GM did mostly the same. That was before the government decided that was a vertical trust and forced both companies to spin off their parts divisions into independent suppliers.

  • avatar

    In a round about way, this is why the current snap election is so dissappoiting. So much for this happened during Abe’s eatch, and under the LDP in general. They were so problem ridden, and called the election to capitalize on the North Korean missle crisis and a fractured opposition. Seeing how inter-webbed Japan’s corporate structures are, it’s hard to see how these things would not continue if the political machinery stays in place.

  • avatar

    The real problem will be when these cars get into a wreck, some lawyer is going to find some expert and they will then sue everyone with the slightest connection.

  • avatar

    Yup, no doubt about it, hoods and trunklids are dangerous when made of Kobe aluminum. And none of the companies buying affected metals have an incoming inspection program or process controls any more. That’s so ’90s. Of course, there’s the matter of making airliner wings out of the out-of-spec stuff. Again, it strains my credulity that companies routinely accept materials with no internal quality assurance inspections.

    Nissan is supposed to train inspectors for two months to fill in forms that certify a car meets Type Specifications, like having four wheels. They cheated by using inspectors with only 6 weeks training.

    Mitsubishi Motors is the real bad guy. A scandal in 2001, another one in 2011 on fuel economy falsifications, whereupon much ritual bowing assured authorities it wouldn’t happen again. Until 2016, when they were at it again. Still, look on the bright side – now Nissan has semi-bought them out, they can have a fresh look at their own inspection program. Nissan is shutting down for two weeks in Japan on home-market cars while inspectors are trained. Apparently they’re getting on-the-job training certifying export cars in the meantime, reading between the lines.

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