Subaru Investigation Finds Emissions Data Tampering at Japanese Plant

The automaker was only able to produce data for five out of the 15 years in question.

byRob Stumpf|
Subaru News photo

Earlier this year, Subaru was accused of altering fuel economy data provided to Japanese government officials. At the time, Subaru responded by announcing it was investigating the claims, but details remained under wraps for nearly five months. Now, Subaru confirms that it found evidence of emissions data tampering.

When Subaru was first accused of emissions tampering, the automaker was already hot on the heels of another fiasco involving its legally-required final vehicle inspection procedure. Subaru then paired up with a Japanese law firm to conduct its internal investigation to find if there was any merit to the claims. Subaru produced data from December 2012 through November 2017, uncovering at least 903 cars that have "inappropriately altered" emissions data. But that's just the tip of the iceberg, as employee interviews suggest that the behavior may have begun nearly a decade prior to any recoverable information.

"Data from prior to November 2012 was not found in measurement equipment or elsewhere, and it could not be checked based on specific data whether measurement values had been inappropriately altered in that period," read Subaru's statement on the matter, "Based on the employees’ statements, there is a high probability that such manipulation of fuel economy and emissions data commenced around 2002, however, this could not be confirmed."

Violations reportedly occurred in a similar fashion to that of Subaru's final safety inspection mishaps; lineworkers operating under the orders of senior inspectors. As part of Subaru's final vehicle inspection, sample data (which includes both fuel economy and emission results) are collected for the Japanese government. If a vehicle did not meet specific standards, the lower-level inspectors were instructed to alter the measured values.

The statement from Subaru also makes it clear that the inspectors didn't just alter data that was negatively impacting vehicle statistics. Workers reportedly also made certain vehicles appear to be lower-performing in order to reduce variance across the board, hoping to avoid drawing attention from higher-ups.

Subaru insists that its findings will not result in any recalls, as its internal quality control standards are far stricter than those required by the law. The automaker goes on to say that it needs to reform its corporate culture from the ground up. Perhaps they will pull a Volkswagen and make a shift towards electrification like it has been planning for some time. Hopefully, the transparency being shown in the released details will provide some comfort for owners who lack trust in Subaru after its rocky year in 2017.