Japan Kobe Steel crisis expands

Kobe Steel parts used in Japan’s iconic bullet trains failed industry standards bringing to light fresh evidence of wrongdoing by the steelmaker as investors speculated that the crisis could trigger a breakup of the 100-year-old company

Kobe Steel Falsified Quality Data for Metal Used in Cars

Planes, trains and automobiles - Kobe Steel's fake product data scandal has now touched every major form of transportation.

A growing number of auto makers including Toyota and General Motors are investigating whether aluminium with falsified and strength and durability data has been used in their cars, after supplier Kobe Steel admitted to tampering with its product standards. They did not meet specifications agreed with customers.

Kobe Steel said it was examining possible data falsification going back 10 years - a familiar echo of a string of other cheating scandals involving Japan inc. A total of 310 tested parts were found tobe substandard.

Faulty parts have also been found in Japan's famous bullet trains that run at speeds as high as around 300km (180 miles) per hour and a space rocket that was launched in Japan earlier this week. West Japan operates bullet trains between Osaka and Hakata.

The steelmaker faces a range of legal risks, including compensation sought by clients or their customers, penalties for violating unfair competition laws for false representation, shareholder lawsuits for the fall in the company's stock price and class lawsuits from overseas customers seeking punitive damages, a lawyer, specialising in corporate laws and risk management, said.

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Kobe Steel's admission this week sent shock waves through the global automotive and aerospace supply chains.

It also found one case of falsified data on iron powder products - material used for vehicle parts such as gears - that were shipped to a customer.

There were more "suspicious cases" that could hike the number of affected products, he added.

"If you think of any other competitive industry in the commodity business, if one of the major players were knocked out it's looked at as potential for supply disruption which benefits the other players", Hogan added.

A Boeing spokesman has said the company was inspecting its supply chain for any substandard components.

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"It will likely continue to be extremely hard to make judgements on creditworthiness and investment until the safety of the products and the extent of damages are clarified", SMBC Nikko Securities said in a note to clients.

However, Kobe Steel's president, Hiroya Kawasaki, said he did not expect product recalls because of the faked inspections data.

The Japanese government is demanding answers.

The government has ordered Kobe Steel to address safety concerns within about two weeks and report on how the misconduct occurred in a month.

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