Japan's Hitachi Astemo flags lapses in quality tests over decades
TOKYO, May 19 (Reuters) - Japanese automotive supplier Hitachi Astemo said on Friday it found misconduct over testing and other procedures for components had lasted as long as four decades, affecting a much wider range of plants and customers than previously disclosed.
The comments come in the wake of news last month that Toyota affiliate Daihatsu rigged safety tests for 88,000 small cars.
Hitachi Astemo, which makes car and railway parts ranging from brake and damping systems to powertrains, worked with customers to redo tests on nearly two dozen affected products following an investigation, Chief Executive Brice Koch told reporters.
"We have now taken all the relevant measures to improve, to increase the robustness of our system and our company," Koch said, saying he did not expect any impact on growth or costs.
None of the customers involved were paid compensation and all of the costs associated with renewed testing were booked in the previous financial year.
The company, a joint venture between Hitachi Ltd (6501.T) and Honda Motor Co Ltd (7267.T), found that employees had wrongly handled test and other procedures at 11 domestic and four overseas plants, in China, Mexico, Thailand and the United States.
The misconduct affected 22 products for 69 customers, including rear shock absorbers and brake systems for cars, railcar dampers and connecting rods, as well as other components, the company said.
About three-fourths of the customers were Japanese and the rest from overseas, Koch said.
"The major root causes of the misconduct were basically lack of compliance understanding (and) resources," Koch said, adding that employees had in some cases prioritised costs and delivery times over quality and compliance.
The issues included reporting periodic test results to customers without running the actual tests on some products. Employees also ran tests on suspension systems at incorrect temperatures, a spokesperson said.
In the longest such issue, which lasted for about 40 years from January 1983, workers had put an incorrect amount of shielding coating on a suspension system at a plant in Japan's Fukushima prefecture, the spokesperson said.
Hitachi Astemo, which has a global network of production, sales and research sites across four continents, was formed in January 2021, following the merger of Hitachi Automotive Systems, Keihin Corp, Showa Corp and Nissin Kogyo Co Ltd.
The company had initially announced some of the wrongly handled test procedures in December 2021, saying it found misconduct at the Fukushima plant and one in Yamanashi prefecture, involving nine products and 15 customers.
It then had a panel of three lawyers investigate from December 2021 to June 2022, followed by another investigation by its quality management division from July to September last year.
(This story has been corrected to remove reference to 24 affected companies and to JIC Capital Ltd being a JV partner, in paragraphs 3 and 6)
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