Japan's Kobe Steel reports wider manipulation of metals data as scandal deepens


Japan's Kobe Steel reports wider manipulation of metals data as scandal deepens

Top Japanese automakers said Wednesday they were scrambling to assess their vehicles that used products from Kobe Steel, which has admitted to falsifying quality data in a growing scandal.

In Japan and overseas, manufacturers that have used Kobe Steel materials have been racing to check that the safety of their own products has not been compromised.

"Data in inspection certificates had been improperly rewritten etc, and the products were shipped as having met the specifications concerned", the company said, describing the actions as "improper conduct". It could also undermine confidence in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's moves to improve corporate governance as part of his program of Abenomics.

An internal probe carried out since it found issues in its aluminum and copper business has not found other cases of data tampering, Yoshihiko Katsukawa, a managing executive officer at Kobe Steel, told a news conference.

Toshiba is still working to recover from an accounting scandal that began in 2015. The government has urged Kobe Steel to clarify the extent of the misconduct.

Kobe Steel, Japan's third-largest steel maker, has announced that between September 1, 2016 and August 31 of this year, it sold aluminium and copper materials using falsified data on such things as the products' strength.

A man walks past the signboard of Kobe Steel at the group's Tokyo headquarters in Tokyo October 10, 2017. It apologized and said it had appointed lawyers to investigate.

"Putting the utmost priority on the safety of our customers, 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", Toyota said in a statement. And in 2006, Kobe Steel said its Kakogawa steelworks in western Japan falsified soot emissions data over five years.

A Kobe spokesman told Reuters the firm is working with customers to check for any issues. It was not clear whether the scandal affected the safety of their products.

Boeing said in a statement it was working "with our suppliers since being notified of the issue".

USA plane manufacturer Boeing also said it had not found any safety issues. Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) supply parts to Boeing including for its 777 Dreamliner. "Kobe Steel's technology is not something easily substitutable by others, and existing customers have nowhere else to go", said Yasuo Sakuma, Chief Investment Officer at Libra Investments in Tokyo. There were no technical problems with the components, MHI said.