Japanese Carmakers Call Kobe Steel’s Products Safe Despite Scandal

Japanese Carmakers Call Kobe Steel’s Products Safe Despite Scandal

“We confirmed that the materials satisfy applicable statutory standards, and our own internal standard, for key safety and durability requirements for vehicles,” Toyota said in a statement. It said it had reviewed three years’ worth of aluminum purchases from Kobe Steel and would continue its examination.

The automakers use Kobe Steel’s aluminum in hoods and for other parts. In many cases, the aluminum appears to have been used in parts that are not crucial to safety.

Ford Motor said last week that it had used Kobe Steel aluminum in hoods for Ford Mondeo sedans produced in China. It said it did not know whether the aluminum was substandard but said it was not being used structurally, so safety was not at issue.

Had its aluminum fallen short of those requirements, it would have resulted in large and expensive recalls and, perhaps, legal battles involving Kobe Steel, carmakers and car owners. While any of those things might still happen, the findings could offer Kobe Steel some respite for now.

Two railways that operate Shinkansen “bullet trains” in Japan that contain metal produced by Kobe Steel have already said their trains are safe. The railways — Central Japan Railway and West Japan Railway — said last week that although the components they got from the steel maker fell short of the design standards they had requested, they nonetheless met specifications required for safety and did not pose an accident risk.

Another Japanese automaker, Mitsubishi Motors, vouched for the safety of Kobe Steel aluminum on Wednesday.

Kobe Steel customers worldwide have been forced to scramble to review their supply chains since the company’s revelations. The customers include American carmakers and Boeing, which obtains Kobe Steel materials through subcontractors in Japan. About 500 customers have been affected worldwide, Kobe Steel has said. The European Aviation Safety Agency recommended this week that companies suspend the use of Kobe Steel products when possible pending results of the reviews.

Last week Kobe Steel promised to complete in two weeks its own investigation into potential safety hazards related to the data falsification and to deliver in a month the results of a broader examination of the company’s failings.

Kobe Steel said on Oct. 8 that employees at factories in Japan had altered inspection certificates on some aluminum and copper products from September 2016 to this past August and that it was examining other possible episodes of data falsification going back 10 years.

It later added more products, such as powdered steel and wire, and more facilities, including several overseas, to the list of problem products and sources.

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