Echoes of VW as Mitsubishi data falsification piles pressure on car industry

Japanese car manufacturer Mitsubishi's admission yesterday of test data falsification, and news today of a raid on its offices, has put reputational pressure on the firm, the wider car industry and its regulators.

Sorry: Mitsubishi bosses at yesterday's announcement (Credit: AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
Sorry: Mitsubishi bosses at yesterday's announcement (Credit: AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

Many reports of the news have pointed out similarities between Mitsubishi's case and the major scandal that engulfed German auto maker VW last year.

A statement from Mitsubishi yesterday said it had discovered data relating to fuel consumption of certain Japanese models had been misrepresented. The statement expressed "deep apologies" for the "improper conduct" and said the firm would investigate "objectively and thoroughly", while modified statements for the UK market and other countries were also published.

The crisis escalated today as it was reported that the Japanese government had raided its office and was treating the revelation as an "extremely serious case".

Chris Gilmour, a director at Beattie Communications, said he was not surprised to have seen that escalation based on the presentation of yesterday's apology. "It came out with pretty much a mea culpa, and what it did was try to send the fault further down the food chain, but it would be interesting to see how high up this went, and how they found out about it," he said.

He also said this and the VW story did suggest there could be "something endemic within the car industry", also saying that if many standards set by regulators were "difficult to achieve", then it begged the question of how many more car manufacturers were involved in similar practices, and why targets were set at such tough levels.

However, he said this did not excuse Mitsubishi's falsifications, saying: "It has broken one of the first rules of crisis comms, which is don't cause your own crisis."

Simon Maule, a director at Linstock Communications, last year wrote in PRWeek that sister firm Mitsubishi Materials had been naive in its show of remorse to World War Two prisoners of war subjected to forced labour at the firm.

Of the motor company's case, he commented to PRWeek today: "The reported raid on Mitsubishi's office by Japanese officials earlier today suggests there may be more to come. While there is no ‘evidence to suggest’ UK and European models are affected, the company will naturally be asked if it can guarantee good practice outside Japan. Mitsubishi can’t give hostage to fortune, so may feel pressure to carry out a wholesale review."

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