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Subaru hopes factory tour will win back shareholders' trust

Scandal-plagued automaker attempts to prove compliance problems are over

Subaru's Gunma production center, the automaker's only Japanese assembly hub, is responsible for about 60% of global output.   © Kyodo

TOKYO -- Japanese automaker Subaru will take a select group of investors on a tour of its sole domestic assembly hub later this month to demonstrate that its wave of quality-control scandals is a thing of the past.

Subaru will invite 120 individual shareholders to its massive manufacturing complex in Gunma Prefecture. The March 21 tour will be conducted specifically at the Yajima plant, where popular models such as the Legacy midsize sedan and Forester sport utility vehicle are made.

The plant was where Subaru once used uncertified inspectors to perform final checks on assembled vehicles before shipping, a regulatory misconduct that first surfaced in October 2017. The shareholders will view the entire assembly process all the way through the inspections.

Subaru President Tomomi Nakamura will be present during the tour, along with Deputy President Kazuo Hosoya, who is also head of the Gunma complex, and Senior Vice President Atsushi Osaki. They will explain to the visitors how the inspection scandal arose, and the measures the company is taking to prevent any recurrence. A question-and-answer session will be held at the end of the tour.

The automaker has hosted yearly factory tours, mostly at its Yajima plant. But last year, the event was held at the Handa aerospace plant in Aichi Prefecture due to the inspection scandal. After about one and a half years, the company will again open up Yajima production floors to investors in a bid to maintain their stock ownership for the long term.

After the inspection scandal came to light, Subaru was also caught cheating on fuel-economy data. The litany of wrongdoing led to Yasuyuki Yoshinaga resigning as president last June, though he remains as chairman without representation rights. Three other directors stepped down as well.

Subaru will spend 150 billion yen ($1.35 billion) over five years on provisions to prevent additional compliance scandals, including the introduction of equipment staff can use to alert management of problems. In December, the company established a new vehicle-inspection department, which is independent from the manufacturing division.

But Subaru's headaches did not end there. In January, the carmaker suspended operations at its Gunma facilities for 10 days to deal with a faulty power-steering component. At the end of February, Subaru announced a global recall of 2.26 million vehicles to address problematic brake lights -- the largest recall in the company's history.

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