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Cheating scandals continue to plague Japanese automakers

Cost-saving pressures said to have led to cutting corners

Suzuki Motor President Toshihiro Suzuki, center, apologizes at a news conference in Tokyo on Sept. 26.

TOKYO -- One year after Nissan Motor's data-tampering scandal, cheating continues to surface at Japanese automakers, further hurting the country's reputation for quality.

Suzuki Motor reported on Wednesday additional malpractice in final vehicle inspections at three domestic facilities affecting a total of 2,737 vehicles. The same day, Nissan released the results of its internal investigation into last September's scandal, in which it let unqualified staffers perform final vehicle inspections.

In addition to previously known tampering with emissions and fuel efficiency figures, Nissan found more incomplete checks and falsified data. Tests to check the warning light for low brake fluid were not performed, for instance. It also came out that measurements and test conditions were manipulated for eight categories, such as vehicle width and alarm volume.

Suzuki's revelation came after the transport ministry, alarmed by rampant malpractice in the industry, ordered automakers to investigate possible misconduct. Only a few automakers, including Toyota Motor and Honda Motor, are still free from scandal.

After falling into a financial crisis in 1999, Nissan embarked on restructuring in Japan. At the same time, it accelerated the construction of cutting-edge factories abroad. Other Japanese automakers have also made growth investments overseas. Suzuki opened an Indian plant last year.

Nissan pushes domestic and overseas plants to compete with one another on production efficiency, letting more productive plants handle popular cars. Aging equipment at domestic factories played a role in prompting workers to cut corners.

It was also brought to light that Subaru did not sufficiently invest in inspection equipment at domestic plants.

Suzuki employees said through an interview the company conducted that they failed to perform proper inspections due to such concerns as late deliveries.

"It is extremely regrettable that there seems to be a problem with Suzuki's attitude" toward inspections, said Keiichi Ishii, minister of transportation.

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