Mitsubishi Motors' Improper Mileage Tests Date Back to 1991

  • Carmaker taps three former prosecutors to begin investigation
  • Panel's probe to take three months, Mitsubishi Motors says

What Can Mitsubishi Do to Repair Its Image?

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. said it has improperly tested the fuel economy of its cars for the past quarter century, deepening a crisis that’s already wiped out half its market value.

The automaker formed a panel of three former prosecutors to investigate improper testing that goes back as far back as 1991, including the falsification of fuel efficiency data, according to a statement Tuesday. The company said last week it hadn’t been complying with Japanese testing standards since 2002.

Tetsuro Aikawa in Tokyo on April 26.

Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

“Customers bought our cars based on incorrect fuel-economy data,” President Tetsuro Aikawa told reporters during a press conference Tuesday. “I can’t help but apologize.”

The revelation reignited concerns about Mitsubishi Motors’ viability and sent shares plunging for a fifth day, dropping the company’s market value to 427 billion yen ($3.85 billion). Wrongdoing by the Japanese automaker and Volkswagen AG has prompted rising scrutiny of the way carmakers test for and label the fuel economy and exhaust emissions of their vehicles.

Mitsubishi Motors hasn’t decided on how it will compensate customers, said Aikawa, who also told reporters he wasn’t aware of the improper testing.

Raised Targets

Aikawa, 62, and other executives attended meetings where the company raised fuel economy targets for minicar models that the company said last week had been rated with manipulated data, Ryugo Nakao, executive vice president, told reporters Tuesday in Tokyo. Mitsubishi Motors doesn’t know how many models have been tested improperly since 1991, Nakao said.

When initially disclosing the misconduct last week, the carmaker said the fuel efficiency of 625,000 minicars had been exaggerated by as much as 10 percent. Three-quarters of the vehicles rated with deliberate use of false data were supplied to Nissan Motor Co. as the Dayz and Dayz Roox models. 

Nissan first uncovered discrepancies when working on development for the next generation of the minicars, which Mitsubishi Motors sells as the eK Wagon and eK space.

Mitsubishi Motors still plans to report fourth-quarter results on Wednesday, Nakao said. The company probably will say quarterly net income increased 32 percent to 25.9 billion yen, according to analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Task Force

Japan’s government is forming a task force to take steps that would prevent irregularities in vehicle testing, Transport Minister Keiichi Ishii told reporters after a cabinet meeting Tuesday in Tokyo. Manipulation of fuel-efficiency tests is “extremely serious,” he said.

In a separate briefing, the ministry said the carmaker’s report Tuesday was insufficient and that it should file a new one by May 11. The ministry also said it planned to check all of the carmaker’s models for related discrepancies.

Mitsubishi Motors may have to pay back government tax rebates its minicars shouldn’t have been eligible for, Nakao said last week. The company is in discussions with Nissan on a plan for compensation Nissan customers, Aikawa said.

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