Mitsubishi Motors Corp. admitted manipulating test data to overstate the fuel economy of 625,000 cars sold in Japan, Reuters reported.
Its shares fell more than 15 percent Wednesday, wiping US$1.2 billion off the carmakers’ market value.
The firm said it stopped making and selling its eK miniwagons for the domestic market after Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., which markets a similar model made by Mitsubishi, found a discrepancy in fuel efficiency test data.
Mitsubishi said the fuel economy levels of models made for the local market were up to a 10th lower than stated in its test results.
It said it manipulated those levels to gain a favorable reading for its fuel economy certification.
As global emissions regulations tighten, fuel economy has become a major factor for environmental- and cost-conscious buyers.
Tetsuro Aikawa, the president of Japan’s sixth-largest carmaker, bowed in apology at a news conference in Tokyo for what is the biggest scandal at Mitsubishi Motors since a cover-up of defects over a decade ago.
Mitsubishi said the test manipulation involved 625,000 vehicles produced since mid-2013.
These include its eK miniwagon and 468,000 cars it made for Nissan, which markets them as the Dayz.
Nissan, which has sold 450,000 of its Mitsubishi-made Dayz since 2013, said the manufacturer admitted intentionally falsifying the data.
It said it had no plans to change its relationship with Mitsubishi Motors for now.
Mitsubishi said that in calculating its cars’ fuel efficiency, it measured how much they slowed per second rather than the time it takes to slow by 10 km/h, as required under Japanese regulations.
It also manipulated the equipment used to measure a car’s rolling resistance during fuel economy tests and used a different testing system from other Japanese carmakers.
Japan’s Transport Ministry ordered Mitsubishi Motors to submit a full report on the test manipulation within a week and said it would decide on its response to that report by May 18.
“We are disappointed this has occurred and regret that an incident like this can also happen in Japan,” said Takao Onoda, director at the ministry’s recall division.
Mitsubishi’s admission follows its revelation in 2000 that it covered up safety records and customer complaints.
Four years later it admitted to broader problems going back decades.
It was Japan’s worst automotive recall scandal at the time.
Mitsubishi Motors, which has annual sales of just over 1 million cars, is the first Japanese carmaker to report misconduct involving fuel economy tests since Volkswagen AG was discovered last year to have cheated in diesel emissions tests in the United States and elsewhere.
South Korean car makers Hyundai Motor Co. and affiliate Kia Motors Corp. agreed in 2014 to pay US$350 million in penalties to the US government for overstating their vehicles’ fuel economy ratings.
They also resolved claims from car owners.
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