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Toyo Tire's quake shock absorber scandal widens

Toyo Tire officials apologize at a news conference.

TOKYO -- More of Toyo Tire & Rubber's earthquake shock absorbers have been found not to meet performance standards, with indications that data had been falsified since 1996.

     The company is among dozens of government-approved suppliers of earthquake shock absorbers in Japan. But the infrastructure ministry said Tuesday 90 buildings across 25 prefectures were confirmed to have noncompliant absorbers from Toyo Tire. These include 13 buildings in Aichi Prefecture, 12 in Shizuoka and 11 in Tokyo. And performance cannot be verified for nine other buildings due to lack of test data from when the rubber was made.

     Toyo Tire supplied 855 shock absorbers for the 99 buildings by January 2015. Condominiums, hospitals and office buildings are among them. The ministry publicized the names of eight affected facilities where many people may visit, including the Osaka City Central Public Hall, designated as an important cultural property.

     The company will investigate the products' performance against major earthquakes as early as this month and replace faulty items with consent from owners.

     The ministry had announced the same issue for 55 buildings last month. Affected buildings now total 145.

     Four development employees are suspected of falsifying data on the rubber material. The company has conceded this has happened since 1996, when it began selling quake shock absorbers. Initially, one staffer was seen as the culprit, but three more were brought to light.

     Executive Corporate Officer Tetsuya Kuze apologized at a news conference Tuesday in Osaka. "Such conduct should never be tolerated, and we will take strict measures within the company," he said.

     Toyo Tire is investigating the issue via independent attorneys. The company hopes to announce measures to prevent a recurrence and penalties for the implicated staffers in early May.


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