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Subaru ponders recall after Japan production halted

Automaker's popular Forester and Impreza models hit by power steering defect

Subaru estimates that more than 10,000 autos manufactured at its Gunma Prefecture plant have been affected by the faulty part.

TOKYO -- Subaru faces the possibility of issuing another recall after revealing Wednesday that production at its sole Japanese plant has been halted for one week due to a defective component from a supplier.

The defect involves an electric power steering component supplied to the factory in Gunma Prefecture, north of Tokyo. Subaru looks to resume assembly as early as Monday at the plant, which provides 60% of the company's global production.

The parts are found in the Japanese automaker's Forester and XV sport utility vehicles as well as its Impreza compacts. Subaru estimates more than 10,000 vehicles produced between late December and Jan. 16 are affected. Because some of the autos may have been shipped, Subaru is considering a recall.

Hitachi Automotive Systems produces the component, which is used in assisted steering. But when the car traveled on the road or the engine started, a warning light on the dashboard would flash and the wheel would become harder to operate.

The supplier, a unit of Hitachi, said it was unlikely that the parts were damaged during assembly,  suggesting a fault in the electronics of the component. Subaru said it is still investigating the exact cause of the defect.

The plant shutdown also impacts other Subaru models because the automaker assembles multiple models on single production lines. Daily output totals roughly 2,600 units, and a shutdown until Monday could affect production of more than 20,000 vehicles. The company ships 80% of cars made at the plant overseas, with 60% of exports going to the U.S.

Since disclosing in fall 2017 that uncertified staff performed final vehicle inspections, Subaru has recalled hundreds of thousands of autos domestically due to quality cheating scandals and other issues. As late as November 2018, the company recalled over 101,000 vehicles because of faulty valve springs and another 100,000 related to compliance malfeasance.

Subaru's inspection team, at the center of the quality scandal, failed to catch the latest defect.

The automaker's signature "boxer engine" layout, which aligns cylinders on either side of a crankshaft in a horizontal fashion, requires a special order for the component to conform with the engine. Since a replacement part would need time to be designed from scratch, Subaru intends instead to identify the source of the defect and devise a solution from there.

Following Wednesday's news, Subaru shares fell as much as 6% in the Tokyo stock market before recovering slightly after the company announced the time frame to resume work at the factory.

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