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Mitsubishi president quits over fuel scandal

Going: Mitsubishi Motors Corporation president Tetsuro Aikawa has taken responsibility for his company’s fuel test scandal and quit.

Heads roll at Mitsubishi over fuel furore as Suzuki also admits test breaches

Mitsubishi logo19 May 2016

MITSUBISHI Motors Corporation (MMC) president Tetsuro Aikawa has fallen on his sword over the Japanese company’s fuel consumption scandal, telling reporters in Japan: “For causing trouble and worry first and foremost to our customers and to all involved, I take responsibility.”

The bogus fuel results issue has also taken the scalp of MMC quality and product strategy executive vice-president Ryugo Nakao, whose department was directly responsible for the fuel tests on mini cars sold in Japan by both Mitsubishi and Nissan.

The Mitsubishi resignations came as reports broke in Japan of “discrepancies” in Suzuki fuel consumption and emissions testing methods on up to 2.1 million cars.

Suzuki said it had discovered its testing method for 16 models was not in line with official regulations but that new tests had shown no need to amend data.

The two Mitsubishi executives will leave the company on June 24 – the date of the annual shareholder meeting – and be temporarily replaced by MMC CEO and chairman Osamu Masuko, until Nissan completes its 237 billion yen ($A3b) acquisition of a 34 per cent controlling stake in Mitsubishi.

News of the fudged fuel consumption tests on 650,000 “kei” cars made by Mitsubishi broke in April. An independent committee’s investigation report into the rigged fuel tests dating back 25 years is due in July.

An engineer, 62-year-old Mr Aikawa had been in the president’s chair at Mitsubishi for less than two years, having taken over the role from Mr Masuko who appeared beside Mr Aikawa at the Tokyo press conference on Wednesday night.

Mr Masuko said the resignation of the two directors was a big loss to Mitsubishi, but he would stay on to see the company through the transition, which is expected to include the re-organisation of the company board with Nissan-appointed directors.

Outgoing president Mr Aikawa said he decided to quit for two reasons: the first was that as a long-time engineer and director of MMC’s research and development division that fudged the fuel economy tests, he needed to take responsibility.

The second was that his departure will clear the way for a clean start for a new development chief.

In an official statement announcing the resignations, MMC said it had caused “tremendous trouble and concern to our customers and all of our stakeholders”.

“Considering this, Mr Aikawa and Mr Nakao decided today that they will resign as representative directors as of June 24, 2016,” the statement said.

The Japanese car testing scandal widened this week when Suzuki reported test discrepancies in the wake of Japanese transport ministry orders for all of the country’s car-makers to prove their compliance with government testing methods.

Suzuki chairman and chief executive Osamu Suzuki apologised to customers for the faulty testing, but said his company had retested its vehicles and found no significant differences between the results and already published data.

In a statement released in Japan, Suzuki said the problems with the testing methods went back to 2010 and affected about 2.1 million cars sold in Japan. No export vehicles were affected, it said.

According to news reports, Suzuki found that its engineers had experienced inconsistent results in “running resistance” results due to windy conditions at Suzuki’s exposed proving ground.

Instead, it did some tests in laboratory conditions rather than outdoors as the regulations require.

The engineers also reportedly cut corners by extrapolating running resistance from previous tests in violation of Japanese regulations.

However, Suzuki denied that the testing methods had misrepresented the fuel economy of its vehicles, saying it had re-run the tests and found they were within satisfactory limits.

Rivals Nissan, Toyota, Honda and Mazda have already denied any wrongdoing.

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