Vast numbers of cars could potentially have been built with sub-standard steels as part of the next big corporate scandal to hit Japan.
Kobe Steel, reportedly Japan’s third-largest steel maker and supplier to the likes of Honda, Toyota and Nissan, has admitted to false labelling of some of its aluminiums and coppers, making out that they conform to a manufacturer’s specifications… when they don’t.
The practice could back-date a decade or more. Automotive News has written that as much as four per cent of the aluminium and copper products shipped between September 2016 and August 2017 are below quality standards. Investigations into previous years are ongoing, and could take a while.
We stress that we don’t know any details on this at this stage, but the worst case scenario is that millions of cars might not conform to crash safety tests. We think it’s unlikely: given the volume of Hondas, Nissans and Toyotas on the road all over the world, and the number of collisions the law of averages suggests they should be involved in, we’d have heard before now if these cars were behaving like a cheaply-bandaged Jazz.
The car makers are said to be assessing the scale of the problem while Kobe’s share price has nosedived by 40 per cent. General Motors has been reported in Japan as another client of Kobe’s and is checking vehicles, but Daimler and PSA have flat denied buying the company’s metals.
This scandal comes in the wake of the Takata airbag disaster, which proved fatal on a number of occasions, and both Mitsubishi’s admission of Japanese-market emissions test tampering. These are not good times for the Japanese auto industry, which could explain why Mitsubishi has joined the Renault Nissan Alliance and why Mazda is seeking collaborative shelter beneath Toyota’s mighty umbrella.