Toyota apologizes as Japanese car testing scandal widens

Toyota apologizes as Japanese car testing scandal widens
Toyota apologizes as Japanese car testing scandal widens

The head of the Japanese car making giant gave an apologetic press conference after an internal review found Toyota had cheated on certification tests. Japan’s government is also investigating.

Toyota Motor Corporation on Monday admitted to cheating on various certification and safety tests for seven models of car sold in Japan, three of which are still in production. 

Chairman Akio Toyoda apologized at a press conference in Tokyo, offering a customary low bow as he did so. 

HIs comments were based on the findings of an internal Toyota review, launched as the Japanese government announced its own investigation at the beginning of the year. That probe is ongoing and affects multiple car manufacturers.

“We are not a perfect company. But if we see anything wrong, we will take a step back and keep trying to correct it,” Toyoda said. 

The issue does not affect the non-Japanese market for Toyota. However, it is providing a stern test for Japanese car companies in their lucrative and symbolically important home market.

The scandal hits Toyota and several other Japanese manufacturers on their home turf

Only China and the US currently manufacture more cars than Japan, although China makes more than Japan and the US combined these days.

What did Toyota’s investigation find, which cars were affected? 

Toyota said in a press release that seven models were affected in all. 

“The model certification applications in question involve inadequate data in pedestrian and occupant protection tests for three production models,” the Corolla Fielder — a station wagon version of the world’s most popular sedan, Toyota Corolla, the hybrid Corolla Axio, and the compact SUV called the Yaris Cross. 

For four models discontinued in 2014 — the Crown, Isis, Sienta and an older version of the luxury Lexus RX — there were “errors in crash tests and other test methods,” the company said. 

However, Toyota also asserted that while the cars did not undergo the proper certification and testing procedures, “we can confirm that there are no performance issues that contravene laws and regulations.” In other words, the company claims the cars would have passed all properly required checks.

“Therefore, there is no need to stop using the affected vehicles,” Toyota said. “However, considering these findings, we have taken action to temporarily halt shipments and sales of three models currently produced in Japan, effective today.” 

The company said it would continue to cooperate with Japanese investigators and “expedite appropriate measures, including conducting testing in the present of witnesses.” 

“Again, we extend our sincere apologies to our customers and stakeholders,” the statement concluded.

Honda, Mazda report similar issues but also say cars still meet regulations

Also on Monday, Mazda Motor Corp reported similar irregular certification testing for two models, the Roadster and Mazda 2. Like Toyota, it temporarily halted production of both. Three other discontinued models were also affected, it said. 

Like Toyota, Mazda said none of the violations affected the vehicles’ safety or its performance.

Honda also apologized for improper testing on issues like noise levels and torque on a range of older models no longer in production. Again it said all the vehicles conformed with the laws despite not having undergone the proper scrutiny.

First signs of the certification issues started surfacing around two years ago at Toyota, its truck maker Hino Motors, Daihatsu Motor Co — specializing in the compact city cars that are particularly popular in Japan — and its machinery and car parts subsidiary, Toyota Industries Corporation. 

Toyoda, the grandson of the company’s founder Kichiro Toyoda, suggested some of Japan’s certification rules might be overly stringent, noting how tests vary around the world. But he also repeatedly said that did not condone the violations.

He said the company might have been too eager to get the models approved, at a time when Toyota was manufacturing a very broad selection of vehicles as it was winding down one generation of cars and launching the next. 

Toyota sells more than 10 million cars around the world each year, more than any individual company. Most of its manufacture in Japan takes place in the giant city named after the company, near Nagoya to the west of Tokyo.

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