The recent suspension of production at Daihatsu, the last operating domestic factory of the Japanese automaker, sheds light on a safety testing scandal that has raised significant concerns. The subsidiary of Toyota is currently grappling with a critical issue affecting 64 models spanning over three decades.
The trouble began to surface in April when Daihatsu admitted to manipulating crash test data on four models produced in Thailand and Malaysia from 2022 onwards. However, subsequent investigations revealed a far-reaching problem within the company’s production process, uncovering falsified data dating back to 1989.
Daihatsu’s CEO, Soichiro Okudaira, expressed remorse during a Tokyo press conference, acknowledging the breach of trust with customers and attributing all responsibility to the management. The company took decisive action by halting shipments of all models on 20 December, aiming to conduct thorough investigations and safety checks. Initial findings pointed to the pressure of shortening vehicle development time, leading to compromises in safety checks.
Makoto Kaiami, heading the investigative panel, highlighted the immense pressure on employees, where altering sales schedules due to test failures was deemed unacceptable. The identified major safety issue revolves around doors that may become difficult to open from the outside after an accident, although no injuries related to this issue have been reported.
The suspension of production has rippling effects, impacting thousands of workers and suppliers across Daihatsu’s factories in Japan. Negotiations with unions and suppliers over compensation are ongoing while production remains at a standstill.
This incident has drawn attention to a history of safety-related scandals within the Japanese automobile industry. From Mitsubishi Motors’ confession in 2004 regarding defects covered up since 1977 to recent inspections and data-tampering scandals involving Nissan, Suzuki, Mazda, Subaru, and Yamaha Motors, the industry has faced recurrent challenges.
Even Daihatsu’s parent company, Toyota, confronted safety issues leading to a record $1.2 billion settlement with the US Justice Department in 2014 related to claims about accelerator pedals. Investigations failed to identify mechanical faults, pointing to driver error as the likely cause for the accidents.
As the automotive industry navigates this recent crisis, a renewed emphasis on safety protocols, stringent checks, and transparent practices becomes imperative to regain trust and uphold the reputation of Japanese automakers for safety and reliability.