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Kobe Steel's Data-Fabrication Stuns Japanese Manufacturers

12 October 2017

Big multinationals, including automakers like Toyota, General Motors and Ford, as well as aircraft manufacturers like Boeing and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, are investigating.

Hitachi said its new trains in Britain used Kobe Steel but had all passed rigorous tests.

In a statement on Wednesday, Kobe Steel denied a Nikkei business daily report that it meant to put its real estate business up for sale to help shore up its finances.

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"Our investigations are now centred on four plants within Japan", Kobe Steel spokesman Gary Tsuchida told The Straits Times.

A spokesman for Inchcape, which distributes Toyota and Suzuki cars here, said: "Putting utmost priority on the safety of our customers, we are rapidly working to identify which auto models might be subject to this situation, its effect on individual vehicles, and precautionary measures that need to be put in place moving forward".

"At this point, we don't see a critical problem as we have our own safety inspection on materials we use".

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One customer, Central Japan Railway 9022.T , said some parts it received from Kobe Steel for its bullet trains did not meet Japanese Industrial Standards, but there were no safety issues. It was later found that incorrect information was also given for iron powder products.

"We can't rule out the possibility that the external investigation will find other cases", Katsukawa said, adding no customers had raised any safety issues or stopped buying its products. An internal probe has revealed that data were fabricated for about 19,300 tons of aluminium products, 2,200 tons of copper products and 19,400 units of aluminium castings and forgings shipped to clients between September 2016 through August 2017.

Since then the embattled firm has seen its shares plunge almost 40% - wiping more than $1.5bn (£1.1bn) off its market value.

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The latest scandal to hit Japan's storied manufacturing industry erupted on Sunday after the country's third-largest steel producer admitted it faked data about the strength and durability of some aluminum and copper. Yesterday it plunged a further 17.8 percent to close at 878 yen. "It seems in some cases quality control was undertaken by veteran employees who had lots of experience, highly trusted within the organisation, and somehow these discrepancies slipped by them", company spokesperson Gary Tsuchida said. The government has urged Kobe Steel to clarify the extent of the misconduct. And it is just the latest in a series of affairs to embarrass Japanese industry. Mitsubishi Motors and Suzuki Motor both admitted a year ago that they had been exaggerating the fuel economy of their vehicles by cheating on tests. Airbag maker Takata went bankrupt after defective products were linked to 16 deaths and scores of injuries worldwide. And electronics giant Toshiba has admitted that its executives had pressured underlings to cover up weak results for years after the 2008 global financial meltdown.

Kobe Steel's Data-Fabrication Stuns Japanese Manufacturers