Transport Ministry Starts On-Site Inspection at Toyota HQ; Data Falsification at 5 Vehicle Makers Being Probed (Update 1)

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Officials from the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry enters Toyota Motor Corp.’s headquarters office in Toyota, Aichi Prefecture, on Tuesday.

The transport ministry conducted an on-site inspection at Toyota Motor Corp.’s headquarters in Toyota, Aichi Prefecture, on Tuesday over falsified applications for model certification.

Model certificates are necessary for the mass production of automobiles and motorcycles.

The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry launched the on-site inspection under the Road Trucking Vehicle Law after confirming that Toyota and four other vehicle manufacturers — Mazda Motor Corp., Yamaha Motor Co., Honda Motor Co. and Suzuki Motor Corp. — had submitted false performance data for a total of 38 models, six of which are still in production.

This is believed to be the first time for Toyota’s headquarters to be subject to an on-site investigation for improper activities. After confirming the facts in detail, the ministry plans to consider administrative measures.

Five officials from the ministry entered Toyota’s headquarters building around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. They were expected to inspect the firm’s departments in charge of quality control, development and safety testing for certification, and to investigate details of the irregularities mentioned in a report that was submitted by Toyota.

Toyota’s misconduct has taken place in connection with seven car models since 2014, totaling more than 1.7 million vehicles.

Toyota has said that there are no safety problems with these vehicles. However, the ministry plans to conduct its own tests and announce the results after determining whether the vehicles meet national safety and environmental standards.

Of the seven models, the ministry ordered the company to suspend shipments of three models currently in production: Yaris Cross, Corolla Fielder and Corolla Axio.

When applying for model certification, Toyota submitted false data related to pedestrian safety and occupant protection tests for the three models.

Toyota Motor East Japan Inc., which produces the three models, will partially suspend operations at its Miyagi Ohira Plant in Ohira, Miyagi Prefecture, and its Iwate Plant.

The sales volume of the three models is 120,000 units per year, and there are more than 1,000 business partners involved, including secondary and tertiary parts suppliers.

When Toyota was unable to obtain the expected performance data from engine output tests for four discontinued models — Crown, Isis, Sienta and Lexus RX — the carmaker submitted applications containing output data that it obtained by adjusting the computer controls.

The ministry plans to continue its on-site inspection of Toyota on Wednesday, conducting interviews with company officials and executives.

Commenting on the improper vehicle testing by the five companies, the ministry said that the number of vehicles and production volume involved in the fraudulent activities are smaller than those involved in irregularities by Daihatsu Motor Co. that were discovered last year.

The ministry plans to conduct on-site inspections of the other four companies by the end of this month and consider imposing administrative penalties.

“It is extremely regrettable that [the five vehicle manufacturers] have undermined the trust of drivers and shaken the very foundation of the vehicle model certification system,” Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Tetsuo Saito said at a press conference after the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

“From the perspective of reducing the economic impact caused by the suspension of shipments, we will promptly conduct tests to confirm compliance with the standards [which is a prerequisite for resuming vehicle shipments] for these models,” Saito said.