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