Subaru Is the Second Manufacturer to Violate Japanese Vehicle Inspection Laws

Subaru’s CEO is “very ashamed” that it has also found non-compliance at its plants.

byRob Stumpf|
Subaru News photo

Germany may have Dieselgate to worry about, but now Japan has its own competing set of scandals revolving around its domestic vehicle manufacturers. On Friday, Subaru identified itself as being the second manufacturer which has failed to follow regulatory compliance requirements for its vehicles and may have been doing so for more than 30 years at one of its facilities.

When an automaker builds a car destined for the streets of Japan, the local regulation requires that the vehicle undergoes a series of inspections prior to being sold and registered. These inspections must be performed by employees who are certified to fit the role of final vehicle inspector, something which became more apparent to the public this month after Nissan announced that it would be recalling vehicles that were not in compliance with the proper final check procedure. It seems that the recall put other manufacturers into the hot seat as well, forcing automakers to review their own internal procedures to ensure compliance.

On Friday, Subaru announced that it had performed an audit of its internal procedures and discovered similar activity occurring in at least one of its facilities. This process, which had been ongoing for over 30 years, permitted a proxy-like approach to vehicle certification. Subaru treats the final vehicle inspector position as a promotion and requires employees train for the role. During this training process, non-certified employees were permitted to perform the final vehicle inspection and certify it using their trainer's seal, which is not permitted by law.

Subaru claims that it was unaware of its practices violating the regulations set forth by the governing body which oversees the regulatory compliance, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation (MLIT) and would be compiling a report to file by Monday regarding its findings.

The manufacturer notes that up to 245 employees may have been involved in this process, affecting around 255,000 total vehicles made up of Forester, Impreza, and Legacy models. If a recall is prompted due to the findings, it is believed that Subaru would spend nearly $43.9 million (5 billion yen) to perform the re-certification of the vehicles.

Though a substantially less number than Nissan's recall of 1.2 million vehicles, this still poses a concern to the consumer regarding not only how manufacturers have skated the line of compliance, but also how a governing body could have missed such a widespread problem that was occurring for nearly four decades. Earlier today, it came to light that Nissan may have been involved in a similar process since at least 1979.

On top of the problems surrounding Japan's vehicle industry, one of the largest automotive steel manufacturers in Japan is also under fire. Kobe Steel, which is also one of the largest suppliers to North American manufacturers, has been caught lying about the strength of its metal to manufacturers. It is unknown if Nissan, Subaru, or any other manufacturers who may have used Kobe Steel's products are affected and if a recall will be deemed necessary based on the data collected.

Subaru's CEO, Yasuyuki Yoshinaga, chimed in on the news to mention that he was very concerned about the news and ashamed that Subaru "played a role in shaking public trust in Japan's manufacturing culture."