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12 October 2017, 11:35 | Joann Bryant
|By Yuka Obayashi
Kobe Steel President Hiroya Kawasaki warned on Thursday there may be more cases of falsified product data, in a sign the unfolding scandal may worsen.
Concern has spread across a range of industries - including auto, train and aircraft manufacturers - that source materials from Kobe Steel. As scores of its clients from Toyota Motor Corp.to General Motors Co. scrambled to determine if they used the suspect materials and whether safety was compromised, the company said two more products were affected and further cases could come to light.
The Japanese government has asked the company to provide more information about the products supplied to more than 200 customers, reportedly including some of the country's biggest manufacturers, including defence contractor Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and a number of automakers. So scandal that erupted in Japan was expressed not affecting production in Gebze. It could also undermine confidence in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's moves to improve corporate governance as part of his program of Abenomics.
An internal probe carried out since it found issues in its aluminum and copper business has not found other cases of data tampering, Yoshihiko Katsukawa, a managing executive officer at Kobe Steel, told a news conference.
The companies are trying to determine if substandard materials were used in their products and, if so, whether they present safety hazards. The government has urged Kobe Steel to clarify the extent of the misconduct.
In a statement on Sunday Kobe Steel said some aluminum and copper products shipped from September 2016 to August 2017 were falsely labeled.
Kobe Steel faces potential costs from any product recalls, replacements and possible litigation, including class-action suits in the United States, Yuji Matsumoto, an analyst at Nomura Securities, said in a report. It apologized and said it had appointed lawyers to investigate. "It seems in some cases quality control was undertaken by veteran employees who had lots of experience, highly trusted within the organisation, and somehow these discrepancies slipped by them", company spokesperson Gary Tsuchida said.
A Kobe spokesman told Reuters the firm is working with customers to check for any issues. A multi-year investigation led by the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement concluded that the suppliers of the bolts for several blowout preventers were cutting corners on their manufacturing processes, raising the risk of failure. Japan's famous "Shinkansen" bullet trains also used Kobe Steel's aluminium, as did high-speed trains in Britain, according to engineering firm Hitachi. There were no technical problems with the components, MHI said.
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