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Japanese Steelmaker Admits False Safety Information

Kobe Steel President and CEO Hiroya Kawasaki bows during a press conference in Tokyo, October 13, 2017. Kawasaki apologized for problems with product safety inspection information from his company. Hundreds of companies and thousands of tons of steel, aluminum and copper are affected.
Japanese Steelmaker Admits False Safety Information
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The Japanese manufacturer Kobe Steel is investigating problems with safety inspection information about its products.

The company reported “improper conduct” related to some steel, aluminum and copper products. On Wednesday, the company said in a statement that an outside legal company was carrying out an investigation.

While facing the news media in Tokyo Thursday, Kobe Steel’s chief executive officer Hiroya Kawasaki bowed deeply to apologize.

“Trust in our company has dropped to zero,” he said.

Kawasaki said the most important issue now was to carry out safety checks of the products in question.

The admission has raised concerns about the safety of some of Kobe Steel’s products, which are used in cars, trains, aircraft and household machines.

However, the company’s latest statement raises questions about whether the problem is more widespread than earlier reported.

As many as 500 companies could be affected.

Company looking back at data from up to 10 years

News reports say Kobe Steel may have fabricated inspection information about steel powder used to manufacture parts for cars and other uses.

Earlier, the company had reported that inspection certificates had been improperly written for aluminum and copper products. Thousands of tons of steel, aluminum and copper are involved.

Kobe Steel also has started an investigation of Kobelco Research Institute, which tests products for the company. The company is looking into information going back 10 years.

Materials used by many large international companies

Kobe Steel, also known as Kobelco, is Japan’s third largest steel maker.

The company is a worldwide supplier of steel, aluminum and copper materials. The conglomerate also manufactures machinery, generates power and has several other businesses including real estate.

Products made by Kobe Steel are used not only in Japan, but by large corporations around the world.

Companies such as car makers Toyota and Ford, and aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Mitsubishi are investigating the reports.

Other car makers affected include General Motors and Daimler.

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kotaro Nogami called on Kobe Steel to investigate the causes of the problem and make sure they do not happen again. He added that the company needed “to restore the trust of not only its customers but of society as a whole.”

The news of the use of false product information is the most recent problem reported by a major Japanese company.

Dangerous airbags made by Japan’s Takata Corporation were blamed for a number of deaths. The manufacturing problems resulted in a huge recall, $1 billion in fines and the company seeking bankruptcy protection from its creditors.

Recently, car maker Nissan also faced scandal about false safety inspection information. Last year, Mitsubishi was caught for providing false information about its vehicles’ fuel usage.

A company linked to Kobe Steel, Shinko Wire Stainless Co., reported it had given false strength testing information about some of its steel products last year.

I’m Mario Ritter.

Mario Ritter adapted this story from Reuters, AP and other sources for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.


Words in This Story

improper –adj. not right, not correct

conglomerate –n. a company that operates businesses in several industries that may be related or not

fabricated –adj. made up, fictional not factual

certificates –n. a document that provide proof that something is correct or has met certain requirements

customers –n. someone who buys good or services from a business

scandal –n. an incident that causes shock or disapproval by people who find it to be wrong

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