Latest Subaru scandal exposes inability to fix own shortcomings

The Yomiuri ShimbunWhy have improper practices kept popping up in Subaru Corp.’s vehicle inspections? The automaker’s inability to rectify its own shortcomings is nothing short of astonishing.

Subaru has announced that new wrongdoing has been detected in the safety-related inspections for vehicles before they are shipped, including brake and speedometer checks.

The rule-flouting was detected during an investigation by the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry. Subaru will notify the ministry that it will conduct an additional recall of about 100,000 vehicles due to concerns they might not meet government-set safety standards.

Subaru has a reputation for superb technological capabilities. Its shoddy inspections are actions that will dent the trust of strongly loyal fans who have supported the automaker.

In late September, Subaru announced brake inspection data had been falsified and asserted that all wrongdoing had been halted. The fact that, despite this assertion, inappropriate inspection methods continued until October cannot be shrugged off.

Furthermore, it is highly possible the malfeasance would have been left unaddressed if the ministry had not conducted an inspection. The bottom line is that Subaru’s internal checks were full of holes.

In June, a new president took over at Subaru and pledged to reform the automaker. From the top management to workers at vehicle production plants, there has been a lack of awareness about the crisis facing Subaru. It must be said there are problems in Subaru’s governance.

Put quality first

Subaru has boosted its business performance by strengthening sales in the United States. In the past decade, the automaker has about doubled its annual worldwide number of vehicles sold to more than 1 million units.

“There were some strains and carelessness amid our rapid growth,” Subaru President Tomomi Nakamura said at a press conference.

It seems Subaru had a corporate culture that turned a blind eye to some wrongdoing and gave priority to efficiency and meeting delivery deadlines.

In October 2017, it was revealed that unqualified Subaru workers had been conducting inspections of completed vehicles. Since this scandal surfaced, new problems have emerged each time the ministry and lawyers have checked the automaker.

This will be the fourth recall stemming from irregularities in Subaru’s inspections, raising the total number of affected vehicles to about 530,000. It is imperative that, this time around, Subaru fully breaks this vicious circle.

Subaru needs to quickly implement measures to prevent any such recurrence, such as updating and improving its aging inspection facilities, automating the process and increasing the number of vehicle inspectors. Changing the mindset of Subaru’s executives and fundamentally reviewing how the organization should be are essential.

Many problems also have come to light in vehicle inspections conducted by Nissan Motor Co., Suzuki Motor Corp. and Mazda Motor Corp.

One common thread running through these cases is that inspection departments, which do not directly generate profits, were given little attention within the company.

The slew of scandals at automakers, which form a key industry, could erode confidence in Japan’s entire manufacturing industry.

Neglecting quality control could, in the blink of an eye, ruin a brand image that has been carefully built up over many years. Companies in the auto industry should keep that firmly in mind.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 8, 2018)Speech


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