TOKYO -- The automotive supplier formerly known as Takata delivered as many as 9 million seat belts that do not meet quality standards to domestic customers, the Japanese government said Thursday.
The Transport Ministry based the figure on a report provided by Joyson Safety Systems Japan, Takata's successor. Those substandard belts were produced at one domestic plant, which altered test data to clear safety requirements.
Automakers have been told by the ministry to prepare for a recall, which could potentially climb to 2 million vehicles nationwide. Nikkei also learned Thursday that JSSJ falsified data on belts for child safety seats.
JSSJ commands a 40% domestic share in seat belts and does business with most Japanese automakers, including Toyota Motor. JSSJ's products are also shipped overseas.
According to sources, during some strength tests at a plant in Hikone, a city west of Nagoya, JSSJ altered numerical data to appear as if the belts satisfied requirements. The faulty products were later delivered to clients.
In April, a whistleblower brought the misconduct to light, prompting JSSJ to launch an internal investigation this summer.
The number of vehicles recalled in Japan in the previous fiscal year ended March rose 28% to 10.53 million units, according to ministry data. A recall of 2 million vehicles would have serious repercussions for the auto industry.
The 9 million figure was an estimate as of Thursday. The number of seat belts or vehicles affected by JSSJ's data manipulation could change going forward.
In addition, JSSJ manipulated strength data on belts made for child safety seats, sources told Nikkei. This occurred at the Hikone factory as well and involved the same methods as the faulty seat belt.
The misconduct likely put tens of thousands of child safety seats on the market that do not meet legally mandated quality standards. The Transport Ministry has told JSSJ to prepare for a recall.
"We're not aware of any belts breaking or any other accidents at this point," a JSSJ representative said. But the company is likely to face pressure as the matter involves the safety of children.
A previous scandal involving defective Takata air bag inflaters led to recalls affecting 100 million units worldwide, forcing Takata into bankruptcy in 2017.
The following year, the Japanese company was acquired by Key Safety Systems, a company based in the U.S. but Chinese owned. Key Safety Systems later changed its name to Joyson Safety Systems to reflect the moniker of its Chinese parent, Ningbo Joyson Electronic.
Joyson Safety Systems' brand of child safety seats hold a global share only in the single digits. But the company supplies belts to automakers and child safety seat manufacturers.
Although the 2018 takeover excluded problematic air bag operation, the latest scandal could reveal the corporate culture that led to the air-bag debacle has remained in place.