Kobe Steel's data-fabrication scandal affects wide range of manufacturers, deals heavy blow to 'Made-in-Japan'

Updated 2017-10-11 14:31:53 Xinhua

More companies said Tuesday that they had used problematic aluminum products supplied by Kobe Steel Ltd., the third largest steelmaker in Japan, which has admitted last week to a years-long data-fabrication misconduct.

The scandal, the most recent one of a series of misconducts by Japanese manufacturers, threatens to further damage the reputation of "Made-in-Japan," said local reports.

Kobe Steel said on Sunday that some of its aluminum and copper products were subjected to data fabrication, and the misconduct started as early as 10 years ago.

The company said it has inspected products shipped over the past year and found data on some 19,300 tons of aluminum products, 2,200 tons of copper products and 19,400 pieces of aluminum forging and casting products had been fabricated.

It said that inspection data on the products, including those on strength and duration of the materials, were rewritten by workers who were "under pressure" to meet a deadline when the actual data failed to meet customer specifications.

The products in question have been shipped to about some 200 companies, and though Kobe Steel did not disclose the names of companies affected, a wide range of companies have been found using the problematic products in cars, trains, and even rockets and defense equipments.

On Tuesday, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. said that it had used the aluminum products with fabricated data in the H-2A rocket that was launched earlier in the day to send a satellite into space.

It said that the products in question have also been used in another rocket scheduled to be launched by March 2018.

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.

Other companies affected include automakers such as Nissan Motor Co., Subaru Corp., Mazda Motor Corp., Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Honda Motor Co., which have also said they used the affected aluminum products in their cars.

The problematic products were also reportedly used in the Mitsubishi Regional Jet passenger planes, which have been intended to be Japan's first domestically developed jet airliner.

Japan's Defense Ministry said that it was also possible that the problematic products had been used in defense equipment such as training planes of the Self-Defense Forces.

Major manufacturers involved in the defense industry, including Mitsubishi Heavy, Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. and IHI Corp. have been found using the aluminum products in question.

Though currently no safety problems have been confirmed associated with the products in question yet, there have been concerns that they might pose safety hazards.

Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism said that it has ordered automakers to find out whether they had used the products in question.

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

The scandal was the most recent one of a series of scandals involving Japanese manufacturers, with Japan's Nissan Motor Co. saying last week that it will recall over 1.2 million vehicles which has undergone flawed safety inspections.

Takata, whose problematic airbags have been blamed for more than a dozen deaths, pleaded guilty in the United States in February for misleading automakers about the safety of the airbags.

"It's a severe situation for Japan's manufacturing industry," said Sadayuki Sakakibara, chairman of the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren).

"It's so regrettable that such things happened to companies that represent (the image of) Japan," he said, adding that manufacturers in question should find out the cause of such misconducts and make sure they never happen again.

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