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Nissan failed to come clean about faulty inspections early on

Transport ministry expanding probe of carmaker's plants

Nissan's Oppama plant in Kanagawa Prefecture.

TOKYO -- Nissan Motor initially offered a problematic explanation of the quality assurance issues that led it to suspend auto shipments in Japan, government officials have concluded.

The company revealed the finding Friday, the same day agents from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism launched on-site investigations at two factories.

In mid-September, on-site checks by the ministry found that Nissan had let uncertified personnel carry out final inspections of vehicles.

Nissan first disclosed the issue Sept. 29. But it later came out that unqualified employees were still performing final inspections at multiple sites. The automaker has halted all domestic shipments of vehicles and production for the local market pending ministry approval.

The ministry has found that Nissan supplied an unsuitable explanation relating to the inspection process in the government checks conducted Sept. 18 and Sept. 22 at the group's Shonan plant in Kanagawa Prefecture, according to the company. Uncertified workers were still inspecting vehicles there in October, a Nissan internal review found.

Nissan has not fully disclosed details of the latest development but says it has already sent a background report to the ministry. The amended law governing automotive safety calls for tougher penalties for companies that provide false reports during official on-site checks.

Ministry investigators on Friday visited the Oppama plant in Kanagawa Prefecture and a production facility in Tochigi Prefecture to see whether Nissan is taking action on reforms to prevent a recurrence. The probe broadens Saturday to minibus affiliate Auto Works Kyoto. Investigators will eventually target all six domestic assembly plants in the group.

The ministry, seeing the need to review Nissan's internal controls, will also send agents to the company's Yokohama headquarters as soon as next week. Executives including President Hiroto Saikawa could be interviewed.


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