Why Does Misconduct Continue to Occur With Quality Checks?

A number of incidents involving misconduct related to quality have come to light in the Toyota Motor Corp. group. Why has governance become lax at one of Japan’s leading corporate groups? The cause must be determined, and thorough steps need to be taken to prevent recurrence.

Misconduct related to safety crash tests was discovered in April at Daihatsu Motor Co., a subsidiary of Toyota Motor Corp.

In four models for overseas markets, Daihatsu modified front-seat door parts from the original specifications during the tests, to make them less likely to injure passengers. This was reportedly a violation of the procedures set forth by a certification organization.

In mid-May, Daihatsu was also found to have engaged in wrongdoing related to side impact tests for hybrid vehicles for the Japanese market. The tests required both the driver and front passenger sides of the vehicle to collide with a pole designed to be a utility pole to verify safety, but data from the front passenger side was illicitly used for the driver’s side.

Safety is the most important element of an automobile. Wrongful acts show utter disregard for this fact.

At a press conference in April, Daihatsu President Soichiro Okudaira said, “The person in charge must have been under a lot of pressure for a successful test the first time.”

If there was an organizational culture that prioritized delivery time and cost reduction over quality, that is unforgiveable. It is only natural that Toyota Chairman Akio Toyoda apologized, saying, “This is an absolutely unacceptable act that betrays the trust of our customers.”

The misconduct included models that were also sold under the Toyota brand. After Toyota made Daihatsu its wholly owned subsidiary in 2016, it dispatched Okudaira, a Toyota senior executive, to serve as Daihatsu president to strengthen its involvement in the subsidiary’s management. Weren’t there any problems with Toyota’s governance over group companies?

In March 2022, Hino Motors, Ltd., a major truck maker in the Toyota group, was found to have used illegal methods to measure exhaust gas and fuel consumption data in engine performance tests. Subsequently, shipments of all models were temporarily halted in Japan.

Toyota Industries Corp. was found in March this year to have engaged in such misconduct as replacing data in performance tests of forklift truck engines.

Earlier this month, it was also revealed that Aichi Steel Corp., the Toyota group’s steel material maker, had shipped steel material products that did not meet the standards demanded by customers.

Toyota is the world’s largest automaker in terms of sales volume. This situation, in which repeated misconduct has occurred within the group, could shake confidence in Japan’s manufacturing. Toyota must realize the weight of its responsibility.

Toyota Chairman Toyoda and President Koji Sato reportedly discussed countermeasures with top-level executives of the 17 group companies on May 12. It is hoped that Toyota will review problems thoroughly and rebuild the quality control systems of all the group companies through such means as dispatching personnel.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 28, 2023)