Shares plunged 22 percent and the cost to insure Kobe Steel debt against default soared as customers including Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Subaru Corp. said they had used materials that were subject to falsification while Hitachi Ltd. said trains exported to the U.K. were affected. One outside estimate put the potential cost of replacing the parts at about 15bn yen ($133m), but the damage to the company — in the form of both reputational harm or possible legal challenges — could be much greater.
“At the moment, the impact is unclear but if this leads to recalls, the cost would be huge,” said Takeshi Irisawa, an analyst at Tachibana Securities Co. “There’s a possibility that the company would have to shoulder the cost of a recall in addition to the cost for replacement.”
Kobe Steel’s admission raises fresh concern about the integrity of Japanese manufacturers. Nissan Motor Co. last week said it would recall more than 1 million cars after regulators discovered unauthorized inspectors approved vehicle quality, while Takata Corp. pleaded guilty this year of misleading automakers about the safety of its air bags. Kobe Steel said the products were delivered to more than 200 unidentified companies, with the falsification intended to make the metals look as if they met client quality standards.
Chief Executive Officer Hiroya Kawasaki is now leading a committee to probe quality issues. The fabrication of figures was found at all four of Kobe Steel’s local aluminum plants in conduct that was systematic, and for some items the practice dated back some 10 years, Executive Vice President Naoto Umehara said this week. The comments were confirmed by a company spokesman.
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