Irregularities result from closed corporate culture

It was found that not only did the automobile manufacturer continue data fraud regarding its engine performance tests for a long period of time, but the company even made false reports to the government. To prevent a recurrence, a drastic revamp of the corporate culture is absolutely necessary.

Hino Motors Ltd. has released a report compiled by an outside special investigation panel on the falsification of data from truck and bus engine performance tests that the company made public in March.

The automaker previously admitted that it had engaged in irregularities since at least 2016, but the report said it had been falsifying data as far back as 2003 or earlier. The responsibility of management for not realizing this for about 20 years is grave.

According to the report, the department in charge of engine performance tests rewrote the test results to meet emissions regulations introduced in 2003. In some cases, the tests themselves were not conducted.

In 2006, when a veteran executive engineer gave an instruction to meet fuel-efficiency standards, making the company eligible for tax incentives, the department manipulated the figures to make them appear more fuel efficient than they actually were, without any objection from staff as they knew the difficulties in achieving the standards.

The number of vehicles equipped with engines based on fraudulent data increased from the about 120,000 units already announced to about 570,000 units. Hino intends to report to the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry about a recall of some of its models.

In addition, in 2016, when the transport ministry asked automakers to investigate and report following revelations of Mitsubishi Motors Corp. faking fuel economy data, Hino replied to the ministry that there were no inappropriate cases.

However, in reality, the people in charge rewrote the data and pretended there were no problems, according to the panel report. This is a false report and malicious in the extreme.

As a reason for the irregularities, the report cited the company’s closed corporate culture of employees “being unable to talk to their superiors” and “not being able to say they can’t do something even if they really are unable.” This corporate culture easily leads to power harassment and is believed to have resulted in the spread of the wrongdoing.

The company must not only clarify management’s responsibility going back to the past but also make efforts to reform its employees’ awareness.

Among automakers, Suzuki Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Co. and Subaru Corp. have had data fraud or fraudulent inspections revealed one after another. In each case, management failed to fully grasp the actual circumstances at their manufacturing sites. The whole industry should work to root out misconduct.

Hino became a subsidiary of Toyota Motor Corp. in 2001. Since then, Toyota has sent many presidents to Hino. Toyota needs to play an active role in preventing similar irregularities from happening again.

The transport ministry has begun an on-site inspection of Hino. The government should also take seriously the fact that it has failed to detect irregularities for many years and strengthen its monitoring system.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 4, 2022)