Carmakers hit in Japan steel scandal

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Kobe Steel headquarters. Wiki Commons CC BY SA

Tokyo (AFP) – Top Japanese carmakers said Wednesday they were scrambling to assess the safety of vehicles containing products from Kobe Steel, which has admitted falsifying quality data in a growing scandal.

Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mitsubishi Motor, Subaru and Mazda joined aviation firms and defence contractors Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Kawasaki Heavy Industries and IHI that have used the steel maker’s products.

The brewing crisis is the latest in a string of quality control and governance scandals to hit major Japanese businesses in recent years, undermining the country’s reputation for quality.

Japan’s famous “Shinkansen” bullet trains also used Kobe Steel’s aluminium, as did high-speed trains in Britain, according to engineering firm Hitachi.

“Products used (for both Japanese and British trains) met safety standards. But they did not meet the specifications that were agreed between us and Kobe Steel,” a Hitachi spokesman told AFP.

Honda spokesman Tamon Kusakabe said: “As to safety, we are still studying (a possible) impact.”

“At this point, we don’t see a critical problem as we have our own safety inspection on materials we use. But we are still investigating and it’s premature to say if recalls will be necessary.”

Auto giant Toyota has already said Kobe Steel supplied materials to one of its Japanese factories, which used them in hoods, rear doors and surrounding areas of certain vehicles.

The industry ministry has pressed Kobe Steel to work with its clients, spread over a wide range of industries, to conduct urgent safety analysis.

Kobe Steel also admitted Wednesday that it was in talks with one client who received steel powder that did not match specifications.

However, it declined comment on a media report that materials used in semiconductors were also impacted by the scandal.

The Kobe Steel scandal broke on Sunday when the manufacturer first admitted falsifying data linked to the strength and quality of products.

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