By Tom Davis
Tokyo, Japan — October 12, 2017 — Kobe Steel has announced that its aluminum and copper business has supplied thousands of tons of materials to OEMs that did not meet the required specifications.
The company, which is based in Japan, said that data in inspection certificates had been “improperly rewritten” for 19,300 tons of aluminum products, 2,200 tons of copper products and 19,400 units of aluminum castings and forgings between September 1, 2016 and August 31, 2017.
Main products that Kobe Steel cited include aluminum flat-rolled products, aluminum extrusions, copper strips, copper tubes and aluminum castings and forgings.
In a statement on the Kobe Steel website, the company said: “This incident of improper conduct came to light following self-inspections and emergency quality audits of the compliance status of contracts executed as to products shipped over the past year.”
While the statement only focused on a one-year period, Bloomberg Markets reported that the fabrication of figures was found at all four of Kobe Steel’s local aluminum plants in conduct that was “systemic” and possibly occurred over a 10-year period.
It’s not yet clear which OEMs might have received materials linked to the falsified data. A report from the BBC suggests Toyota, Mazda and General Motors are among the companies affected.
A spokesperson for Subaru told Collision Repair magazine that the company was investigating the situation but it couldn’t say more.
Nick Richards, a spokesperson at General Motors, told the Guardian: “General Motors is aware of the reports of material deviation in Kobe Steel copper and aluminum products. We are investigating any potential impact and do not have any additional comments at this time.”
Kobe Steel said that verification and inspections to date have not recognized any specific problems to cast doubt on the safety of the nonconforming products. However, the company added that if any doubts arise on the safety of the products in the future it would “quickly take appropriate action.”
As a result of the revelation, Kobe Steel has set up an investigation committee on quality issues, as well as appointing an outside law firm for an investigation on the facts of the “improper conduct.”
The statement added: “Causing this serious matter has brought overwhelming shame to the Company. The Company deeply regrets this incident and sincerely apologizes for the enormous worry and trouble this incident has caused to its customers and other related parties. The Company will report again as further progress of the investigation is made.”
Collision Repair magazine reached out to several OEMs for comment, but they had not yet responded at time of publication.
Watch for more updates on this story as the situation develops.