Nissan halts Japan-market output
“This is a grave problem. We have betrayed the trust of customers even after we decided to take measures. It is difficult to root out entrenched practices,” said Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa .
YOKOHAMA, Japan — Amid an uproar about corporate compliance in Japan, Nissan Motor Co. last week took the unusual step of halting all production of domestic vehicles here for two weeks.
Nissan will use that time to reconfigure final inspections at its Japanese assembly plants after the company admitted uncertified workers had been signing off on some cars, in violation of the company’s inspection guidelines.
The country’s No. 2 automaker flagged the problem in September and this month recalled 1.2 million vehicles in Japan to be reinspected.
But last week, Nissan fell further afoul of regulators when it admitted some uncertified workers had continued inspections even after the recall.
Nissan has assured the public that the internal issue does not impact the quality of its cars, and the glitches do not apply to vehicles made in Japan for export. The inspection guidelines affect only vehicles for sale in Japan.
But the procedural lapse has triggered headlines and hand-wringing in Japan. The country’s transport minister, Keiichi Ishii, told reporters that Nissan’s misstep was “shaking the foundation” of the industry’s certification system.
The flap is part of a wider controversy that includes an unrelated admission by Kobe Steel, one of Japan’s top metal suppliers, that it had fudged quality data on numerous products shipped to 500 customers, including automakers around the world.
At a hastily called news conference to address the Nissan problem last week, Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa said a third-party investigation discovered uncertified workers were still conducting final inspections at four Japanese plants after Nissan had identified the problem.
Saikawa said that Nissan’s workers and team leaders had not fully appreciated the significance of compliance concerns, and added that top management guidance had not filtered down to the factory floor.
In some cases, uncertified workers were being overseen by correctly certified ones. In other missteps, final inspectors who were correctly certified for one type of inspection were working in a factory area where they were not fully certified.
“This is a grave problem,” Saikawa said. “We have betrayed the trust of customers even after we decided to take measures. It is difficult to root out entrenched practices.”
Nissan will continue building vehicles for export during the production hiatus that began Oct. 19. Nissan will pursue countermeasures during the period.
The company will retrain workers about compliance and increase the number of certified inspectors.
It will study the best practices of rival carmakers and update its inspection process. It will also implement more stringent identification checks of its inspectors, possibly by using fingerprint authentication.