Carmaker scandal hardly a big deal

the japan times

Regarding the story “Subaru reveals vehicle checks were flawed” in the Oct. 28 edition, I fully agree that breaking of regulations and laws cannot be condoned, as well as actions that make it look as if the regulations and laws have been complied with.

But with respect of the Nissan and Subaru inspection scandals, I would like to raise the following questions, which are based on my long time risk and control experience in Japan.

First, rules and regulations that are most likely to be bypassed are those that do not make sense and usually there is confidence that the circumvention provides as good as or better controls than the regulations intended. So in the Nissan and Subaru cases (and I would not be surprised if other makers become implicated if my theory is right), even though the regulations were not followed to the letter, can it be said that from a practical point of view they were complied with? Were the required tests carried out by competent staff (with or without the required pieces of paper)? It seems to be the case that no material quality or safety issues have occurred that should have been discovered during this process.

Second, Nissan’s actions and comments imply that the regulations only apply to cars sold in the domestic market; the same rules do not apply to cars manufactured in Japan but sold outside of Japan — this in itself should be questioned (are the Japanese rules too strict or do we have different quality levels for non-Japan sales?).

I emphasize that these are questions, but ones I do not see being asked. Instead a lot of noise is being made about “Japan quality,” which may or may not be a problem.

One positive is that these scandals, whether positive or not, help avoid complacency, but lost reputations (whether lost rightly or wrongly) are hard to recover.

I think the Takata air bag issue and the Kobe Steel issues are different as in these cases the companies were at best misleading their clients and at worst defrauding them.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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