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Japan Auto Scandal Widens, Toyota Halting Some Shipments on Safety Concerns

Published: June 5, 2024
(Image: Toyota Motor Corporation Chairman Akio Toyoda speaks during a press conference over rigging safety tests by its affiliate Daihatsu that affected 88,000 vehicles, in Bangkok, Thailand, May 8, 2023. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha/File Photo)

Toyota Motor and Mazda both halted shipments of some vehicles, after Japan’s transport ministry found irregularities in applications to certify certain models. 

The issues were also found in applications from Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha Motor, the ministry said on June 3 (Monday). The automakers were found to have submitted incorrect or manipulated safety test data when they applied for certification of the vehicles.

The ministry then ordered Toyota, Mazda and Yamaha to suspend shipments of some vehicles, stating that it would conduct an on-site inspection at Toyota’s central Aichi prefecture headquarters on Tuesday, June 4.

The latest revelations came after the ministry requested automakers in late January to investigate certification applications following a safety test scandal at Toyota’s Daihatsu compact car unit that emerged last year.

Monday’s developments are also likely to heighten focus on Toyota’s annual general meeting later this month. Influential proxy advisory firms Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass Lewis have recommended shareholders vote against re-electing Akio Toyoda as chairman at the meeting.

In a report to shareholders, ISS singled out the “spate of certification irregularities” at the Toyota Group.

Toyoda, the grandson of the automaker’s founder and its former chief executive, told a press conference:”As the person in charge of the Toyota Group, I would like to sincerely apologize to our customers, to car fans, and all stakeholders for this.” 

He said the cars did not go through the correct certification process before being sold. The world’s biggest automaker by volume said it temporarily halted shipments and sales of three car models made in Japan.

The scandals at the automakers are proving to be a sore point for the government, which has otherwise earned praise from investors and executives for its corporate reforms. 

Yoshimasa Hayashi, Japan’s top government spokesman, called the misconduct “regrettable.”

Toyota said its wrongdoing occurred during six different safety tests conducted in 2014, 2015, and 2020. 

The vehicles involved were three production models — the Corolla Fielder, Corolla Axio and Yaris Cross — and discontinued versions of four popular models, including one sold under the Lexus luxury brand.

Toyota said it is still investigating issues related to vehicle fuel efficiency and emissions, and aimed to complete that inquiry by the end of June. It added there were no performance issues that violated regulations and customers did not need to stop using their cars.

Toyota shares closed down 1.8 percent, underperforming a 0.9 percent gain in the broad Topix index, while Mazda shares fell 3.3 percent.

Mazda said in a statement it suspended shipments of its Roadster RF sports car and the Mazda2 hatchback from Thursday last week, after finding workers had modified engine control software test results.

It also found crash tests of the Atenza and Axela models had been tampered with by using a timer to set off airbags during some frontal collision tests, instead of relying on an on-board sensor to detect a hit. The models are no longer in production. 

Yamaha said it had halted shipments of a sports motorcycle.

Honda said it had found wrongdoing in noise and output tests over a period of more than eight years to October 2017 on some two dozen models that are no longer being produced.

Reuters contributed to this report.