Hino data tampering the latest sign of culture of fraud in auto industry

It is appalling that there are still rampant irregularities in the quality inspections of automobiles. Actions that betray the trust of customers must never be repeated.

Hino Motors Ltd. announced that it had used illegal methods to measure exhaust gas emissions and fuel efficiency performance data when inspecting diesel engines for trucks and buses.

The company said it had submitted the data to the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry, which approved the certifications for the designated models required for mass production and sales.

The ministry conducted an on-site inspection of a Hino plant as there is a possibility that the maker’s irregularities could have violated the Road Transport Vehicle Law. The ministry should take strict measures, including revoking the model certifications.

According to Hino, the use of fraudulent data had been ongoing since at least 2016. A total of more than 110,000 vehicles have been sold whose engine data has been tampered with. In addition to halting new deliveries, the company intends to report to the ministry about a recall of some models.

Hino said it plans to set up a panel of outside experts to investigate the circumstances and causes of the irregularities. It is essential not only to expedite an explanation for users but also to thoroughly clarify the whole picture in order to eradicate the wrongdoing.

Three types of engine models had been affected by the fraudulent inspections. In the case of an engine dedicated to midsize trucks, despite the fact that the test was designed to measure the durability for equipment for exhaust gas emissions performance, mufflers were replaced in the middle of the process because the initial mufflers might not have met the standards.

In the case of two types of engine models for sightseeing buses and large trucks, the company illegally manipulated the measuring devices so that their fuel efficiency performance data would look better than the actual figures.

According to Hino, in 2018, suspicions surfaced within the company that it had failed to carry out certification procedures for its engines in line with laws and regulations in the United States. An internal investigation that was expanded to cases in Japan brought the irregularities to light.

At a press conference, Hino President Satoshi Ogiso said that his company had been unable to respond to a situation in which employees on the front line of production felt pressured to meet numerical targets and follow a strict schedule. If management failed to grasp the actual situation of the front-line manufacturing sites, it bears extremely heavy responsibility.

In the domestic automobile industry, since Mitsubishi Motors Corp. admitted in 2016 to using favorable data to exaggerate the fuel economy of its cars, there has been a spate of malfeasance cases related to national systems for certifying performance, including those at Suzuki Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co.

In 2016, the government ordered automobile companies to conduct inspections, but Hino said it reported that there was no wrongdoing.

Hino is the leading manufacturer of midsize to large trucks in Japan, boasting a domestic market share of about 40%. Wrongdoing that ignores industry-wide efforts to prevent a recurrence must not be tolerated.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on March 9, 2022.