Daihatsu Sees Long Wait to Resume Business Amid Safety Snafu

Toyota Subsidiary Accused of Faking Safety Test Results for Decades May Face Recalls
Toyota news conference
Koji Sato, president of Toyota Motor Corp., speaks to the media during a news conference regarding the Daihatsu situation at the company's office in Tokyo on Jan. 16. (Toru Hanai/Bloomberg News)

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TOKYO — A Japanese automaker that cheated on safety tests for decades said Jan. 22 it doesn’t expect to resume shipping cars any time soon.

The Japanese government ordered a subsidiary of Toyota to halt production of its entire lineup after reports of faked safety test results emerged last year.

The Daihatsu Motor Co. skipped mandatory safety tests by copying data from testing on one side of cars to the other, and used timers to ensure airbags went off in tests, a review found.

No major accidents have been reported in connection with the cheating, but the news has raised serious questions about oversight at Daihatsu, as well as its corporate parent, Toyota.

Japanese regulators approved five of the company’s models on Jan. 19 after more testing, but company leadership said factories will remain shuttered as it waits on suppliers.

“We face a very tough road ahead in winning back customer trust about safety and security,” corporate manager Keita Ide said Jan. 22, stressing that customers felt betrayed. He said the company is working on a plan to prevent cheating in the future.

Daihatsu is known for kei cars, or light automobiles, including the popular Daihatsu Tanto “kei,” or small, car. It also produces the Toyota Raize hybrid sport-utility vehicle, also sold as the Daihatsu Rocky.

An investigation including third-party experts found 174 cases of faked tests affecting dozens of models, including cars sold under the Toyota Motor Corp. nameplate. The review found that cheating went back 30 years.

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The scandal began after a whistleblower came forward in April last year. Daihatsu has apologized and promised sweeping reforms of its corporate culture. Daihatsu President Soichiro Okudaira has attributed the cheating to pressure on workers to meet tight deadlines.

Daihatsu said there may be recalls, although none have been announced yet. Japanese media reports said the recalls are likely to total more than 300,000 vehicles.

The Toyota group has been rocked by similar scandals before, ensnaring truck maker Hino and Toyota Industries Corp., which makes engines, machinery and vehicles. That’s prompted some questions about the leadership of Chairman Akio Toyoda, the former chief executive and grandson of Toyota’s founder.

“The standards of governance at the Toyota group are being questioned,” nationally circulated Sankei newspaper said in an editorial. “Getting to the bottom of this is needed, as consumer trust in the overall Toyota brand is at risk.”