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Kobe Steel urged to clarify fudged data

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Photographs by AP

Kobe Steel, with headquarters in Tokyo, has admitted to falsifying data on aluminum and copper materials sold between the fall of 2016 and the end of August this year.

TOKYO -- The Japanese government urged steel-maker Kobe Steel on Wednesday to clarify the extent of manipulation of inspection data on steel, aluminum and other metals used in a wide range of products, reportedly including rockets, aircraft and cars, in the latest quality scandal to rock Japanese manufacturing.

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

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kotaro Nogami told reporters that the government was seeking more information about the problem and trying to determine its possible impact on product safety. He criticized the apparently widespread falsification of data as "inappropriate."

About 200 of Kobe Steel's customers, including some makers of defense equipment, were affected, Nogami said. He would not identify the companies by name but several automakers Wednesday said they have been made aware of the problem and are investigating.

"We have confirmed that aluminum from Kobe Steel is used in the hoods and doors of some of our vehicles," Nissan said in an email. "As hoods are related to pedestrian safety, we are working to quickly assess any potential impact on vehicle functionality."

Toyota also confirmed that the material has been used in hoods and rear doors of some of its vehicles.

"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. "At the same time, we are considering what measures need to be put in place going forward."

Aircraft maker Boeing said it, too, is looking into the problem.

"Boeing has been working closely and continuously with our suppliers since being notified of the issue to ensure timely and appropriate action, including comprehensive inspections and analysis throughout our supply chain," the company said in an email. "Nothing in our review to date leads us to conclude that this issue presents a safety concern, and we will continue to work diligently with our suppliers to complete our investigation."

Kobe Steel said in a release that the materials included aluminum flat-rolled products, aluminum extrusions, copper strips, copper tubes, and aluminum castings and forgings.

It was unclear if the total of 40,900 tons of products involved included shipments to other countries.

"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."

The problem was discovered during internal inspections and "emergency quality audits," it said. Kobe Steel's share price has taken a beating, falling 17.8 percent Wednesday in Tokyo trading.

Business on 10/12/2017

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