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Subaru may face new scandal on claims of fake fuel data

Automaker seeks evidence of cheating following revelation of inspections by unqualified staff

Subaru President Yasuyuki Yoshinaga   © Kyodo

TOKYO -- Subaru is looking into whether fuel economy data was doctored during inspections of its finished cars prior to shipment, the automaker said Wednesday, sinking deeper into corporate Japan's bog of product-quality scandals.

In October, Subaru revealed that unqualified staff had conducted checks on finished vehicles for years. During hearings to probe that problem, some car inspectors apparently claimed that readings from fuel consumption tests were altered.

The tests were part of voluntary spot checks aimed at ensuring consistent quality of the mass-produced vehicles. Such inspections "are not included in the safety standards" laid out in transport vehicle laws, Subaru said, so the company "has not violated those laws."

In response to the comments during the hearings, Subaru will search for any evidence of doctored data, with help from outside experts as well as the makers of measurement instruments used in the test. The automaker, which gave no time frame for the probe, will make an announcement when it has reached a conclusion.

Subaru reported Tuesday to the transport ministry on its investigation into why unqualified staff had conducted inspections and how the company would prevent such behavior from recurring. That report did not include employee statements alleging data falsification because the matter was outside the purview of that investigation.

President Yasuyuki Yoshinaga told reporters Tuesday the company "did not uncover any other impropriety in the scope of the investigation" into the improper inspections. But Subaru "has not investigated other fields, so we do not know" whether foul play might be taking place elsewhere, he added. Company representatives said Yoshinaga did not mention the allegations of data fakery because they lacked any objective confirmation.

Fuel economy cheating was discovered in 2016 at Mitsubishi Motors, with improper testing discovered soon after at Suzuki Motor. The automakers had provided false data when applying for type designations, a classification needed to mass-produce and sell a car. Subaru said the "existence has not been confirmed" of any data falsification during such applications.

In recent months, a number of Japanese manufacturers including Kobe Steel, Mitsubishi Materials and Toray Industries have been found to have doctored product data, tarnishing the country's reputation in that field and spurring soul searching over weak corporate governance.

(Nikkei)

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