Wider prob­lems may lurk with Kobe Steel prod­ucts

Houston Chronicle - - BUSINESS - By Jonathan Soble

TOKYO — The chief ex­ec­u­tive of Kobe Steel warned Thurs­day that more qual­ity data about the com­pany’s prod­ucts may have been fal­si­fied than has pre­vi­ously been dis­closed, sug­gest­ing that fall­out could widen fur­ther from a scan­dal that has al­ready af­fected hun­dreds of com­pa­nies world­wide.

“We are re­view­ing data, in­clud­ing from over­seas. It is pos­si­ble that there could be more cases of wrong­do­ing,” the ex­ec­u­tive, Hiroya Kawasaki, told re­porters. He added, “Trust in our com­pany has fallen to zero.”

Kawasaki said it could take Kobe Steel two weeks to com­plete a re­view of its records to de­ter­mine the full ex­tent of the data fal­si­fi­ca­tion and de­cide whether any of the im­prop­erly cer­ti­fied prod­ucts it shipped to cus­tomers pre­sented a safety haz­ard. Mak­ers of cars, air­planes and trains use metal from Kobe Steel, mak­ing such a safety as­sess­ment im­per­a­tive.

In Ja­pan, where Kobe Steel is based, at­ten­tion fo­cused on the coun­try’s high-speed rail net­work. Two rail­ways that op­er­ate Shinkansen “bul­let trains” — Cen­tral Ja­pan Railway and West Ja­pan Railway — said their trains con­tained alu­minum parts sourced from Kobe Steel that did not meet industry stan­dards.

Kobe Steel said Sun­day that em­ploy­ees had al­tered in­spec­tion cer­tifi­cates on alu­minum and cop­per prod­ucts to make it look as if they met man­u­fac­tur­ing spec­i­fi­ca­tions re­quired by cus­tomers, when in fact they did not. It said that about 4 per­cent of the com­pany’s out­put of those prod­ucts from Septem­ber 2016 to Au­gust this year had been af­fected, but that it was ex­am­in­ing other pos­si­ble episodes of data fal­si­fi­ca­tion go­ing back 10 years.

On Wed­nes­day, Kobe Steel added two more prod­ucts to the list of af­fected ma­te­ri­als: pow­dered steel, which is used to cre­ate molded steel prod­ucts like gears, and “tar­get ma­te­rial,” a mix of sev­eral kinds of metal used in the pro­duc­tion of DVDs, TV screens and other elec­tron­ics equip­ment.

Ky­odo News via Associated Press

Kobe Steel Vice Pres­i­dent Naoto Ume­hara, right, bows in Tokyo. More qual­ity data about Kobe’s prod­ucts may have been fal­si­fied than pre­vi­ously dis­closed.

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