Experimental feature

Listen to this article



Experimental feature


Mitsubishi Materials has admitted its subsidiaries falsified data about products used in crucial parts of aircraft and cars, dragging another of Japan’s largest manufacturers into the data falsification scandal at Kobe Steel.

Mitsubishi Materials, which operates a copper tube joint venture with Kobe Steel, said a company-wide investigation had uncovered falsified product quality data at two subsidiaries stretching back at least a year.

The disclosure will raise the pressure on Japan’s manufacturing sector, which has been struck in the past two months by certification scandals at carmakers Nissan and Subaru, as well as Kobe Steel, Japan’s third-largest steelmaker.

Mitsubishi Materials said in a statement that its Mitsubishi Cable Industries unit had falsified data since April 2015 on the quality level of rubber O-rings, which are used to prevent leaks in aircraft, cars and other industrial equipment.

Another subsidiary, Mitsubishi Shindoh, was found to have delivered metal products with quality levels below that claimed by the company or requested by customers.

Mitsubishi Materials has a 45 per cent stake in a copper tube venture with Kobe Steel, stemming from a partnership formed in 1999 alongside affiliate Mitsubishi Shindoh. That joint venture includes the Hatano plant south-west of Tokyo that has become the focal point of Kobe Steel’s data falsification scandal, and been subsequently stripped of numerous Japanese and international quality certifications.

Mitsubishi Materials said shipments of the non-conforming products were halted late last month. The company said it had not found any safety or legal problems associated with the products, but was unsure of how the scandal would impact its financial outlook.

A task force has been established to investigate the problems and prevent further issues.

MCI states on its web site it has supplied O-rings “to the critical area of aircraft & aerospace and nuclear use, based on high quality and reliability”, and claims some of these products have passed material certification tests set by Boeing.

Boeing, in an emailed statement to the Financial Times, said the quality and safety of its products were its highest priority. The company said it was aware of media reports, “was reviewing the matter, and will take timely and appropriate action as necessary”.

An Airbus spokesman said: “We do not directly procure any material from Mitsubishi Cable Industries but we are investigating whether any of our suppliers are affected.”

MCI generated annual revenue of ¥29.5bn ($265m) and employed 513 people at the end of its 2017 fiscal year. That is a small slice of the ¥1.3tn generated in the same period by its parent, Mitsubishi Materials, which makes cement, non-ferrous metals, and materials used in precision tools and electronic components. The latter is one of the core companies of the vast Mitsubishi Group conglomerate alongside Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, general trading house Mitsubishi Corporation, Asahi Glass and brewer Kirin.

Quality standards in Japan have come under intense scrutiny in recent months after an admission in October by Kobe Steel that it had falsified quality data on aluminium and copper products.

The multiyear scandal affected more than 500 companies in the aircraft, car, train and nuclear industries and widened to involve other metals and products, such as tubing and steel. More than 90 per cent of Kobe Steel’s customers have reported no safety issues with the products.

The revelations at Kobe Steel were bookended by scandals at Nissan in September and Subaru in October, where uncertified technicians in domestic factories were carrying out inspections on Japan-destined vehicles that they were unauthorised to perform. No safety issues have been found in either of these cases.

Additional reporting by Peggy Hollinger in London

Leave a Reply

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.