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Kobe Steel Under Fire For Faked Data   10/20 06:15

   TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's industrial standards inspection agency was searching 
offices of metals maker Kobe Steel on Friday as investigations into falsified 
data on its products widened.

   Japan's national broadcaster NHK and other media reported that officials 
from the Japanese Industrial Standards Committee were conducting two days of 
onsite inspections at the company.

   The investigations by regulators and by automakers, aircraft manufacturers 
and other customers of Kobe Steel followed the company's disclosure earlier 
this month that inspections data on a slew of products was faked or manipulated.

   The admissions of misconduct by Kobe Steel and other manufacturers are 
raising worries over the impact on Japan's image as a top quality manufacturer.

   "These exceptions are extremely regrettable," said the trade and industry 
minister, Hiroshige Seko. "Most manufacturers are really exerting themselves to 
ensure their products are of the highest quality."

   The exact extent of the problem is unclear because Kobe Steel has not 
identified by name the customers affected. It is still investigating the 

   Seko, told reporters the government was prepared to intervene and urged the 
company to put priority on confirming the safety of its products.

   "We want them to move quickly in identifying the cause of the problem and 
putting preventive measures in place," Seko said.

   Meanwhile, the Environment Ministry said it was investigating environmental 
impact data from Kobe Steel for a coal-fired power plant in the city of Kobe in 
western Japan.

   Major Japanese automakers and other companies have confirmed they have used 
Kobe Steel products affected by fake inspection data, but say they have found 
no safety concerns so far.

   The 112-year-old manufacturer has said data on aluminum plates, copper pipes 
and molds and steel wire rods used in vehicle tires and engines are among the 
many products whose data did not match specifications or was false or 

   The problem began more than decade ago, possibly much earlier, Japanese 
media have reported, citing unnamed former Kobe Steel employees.

   Toyota said in a statement late Thursday that it had confirmed that aluminum 
plates used in hoods, rear hatches and other components of its vehicles from 
Kobe Steel met requirements for strength and durability based on data from the 
company that was "furthest outside of Toyota's specifications."

   It said it was still investigating non-aluminum products from Kobe Steel.

   Honda Motor Corp. said aluminum panels were the only products it bought 
directly from Kobe Steel. It found they met all of its safety standards but 
said it was still checking on other parts obtained through suppliers.

   Many Kobe Steel customers have said they are checking into the problem. So 
far, none have confirmed any specific safety risks. However, earlier this week 
the European Aviation Safety Agency recommended companies suspend use of Kobe 
Steel products when possible while they review their supply chains to identify 
"suspected unapproved parts" from the company that may have used.

   In a separate quality scandal, Nissan Motor Co. said Thursday it was 
suspending shipments of new cars to the Japanese market after finding that 
uncertified staff had been inspecting cars made at its domestic plants even 
after the company discovered the problem.

   The admission that the problem continued at four Nissan plants even after 
the company announced it had resolved the problem drew a rebuke from government 
spokesman Yoshihide Suga, who chastised Nissan for betraying its customers' 

   "We hope the company will do all that it can to prevent the problem from 
spreading further," he said.

   Nissan has ordered a recall of about 1.16 million vehicles made between 
January 2014 and September 2017 for re-inspections. The company has said the 
problem does not affect vehicles it exports and the suspension of shipments is 
only for the domestic market.

   The company has said it expects the halt to last about two weeks while it 
puts preventive measures in place. In the future, only certified technicians 
will be allowed to conduct final inspections, it said. 


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