Nissan Motor Co. said Friday it will recall around 150,000 vehicles in Japan as another improper inspection was found even after the company a few months ago vowed to tighten quality control and prevent a recurrence in a final report on a series of improper checks.
The automaker will re-inspect the braking and steering systems, and speedometer of 11 models including the Note and March compacts as well as the Leaf electric hatchback built at two of its domestic assembly plants between November last year and October this year.
Nissan said it will report the plan to the transport ministry next Thursday. The vehicles to be recalled also include the Elf small-sized trucks procured for Isuzu Motors Ltd. and Canter Guts trucks for Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corp.
The automaker said the nonconformities with company standards in the inspection process included using the parking brake when testing the strength of the rear wheel brakes and taking measurements without maintaining a certain speed.
The latest recall comes despite a final report compiled in September on measures to strengthen compliance after a string of improper practices had been reported since last year.
"We have been somewhat focused more on costs than quality," said Corporate Vice President Seiji Honda at a press conference at Nissan headquarters in Yokohama, adding that inspectors were not aware that they were conducting improper checks.
(Nissan Corporate Vice President Seiji Honda at a press conference on Dec. 7)
Regarding the Oppama plant in Kanagawa Prefecture where the misconducts were carried out, Honda said, "The inspection equipment was over 40 years old and some inspectors had difficulties using them."
The latest setback for the automaker comes as Nissan governance has been under scrutiny following the recent arrest of former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn for alleged understating of remuneration in securities reports.
Honda said he cannot verify whether the misconducts came as a result of strict reconstructing and cost-cutting measures implemented by Ghosn, who was sent to the Japanese automaker from Renault SA in 1999 as chief operating officer and is credited with saving Nissan from the brink of bankruptcy.
Earlier Friday, transport minister Keiichi Ishii said the ministry has received a report from Nissan about the inspection misconduct.
"We will take strict measures depending on the content of the report from Nissan," Ishii said.
Nissan said in September last year it found uncertified employees had checked vehicles for years, leading it to recall over 1 million vehicles sold in Japan.
The automaker then admitted in July this year to fabricating exhaust emission and fuel economy data on vehicles for the domestic market.
Nissan is among several major Japanese companies recently found to have fabricated product data, including Kobe Steel Ltd. and Mitsubishi Materials Corp.
Subaru Corp., Suzuki Motor Corp., Mazda Motor Corp. and Yamaha Motor Co. also reported improper fuel-economy inspections in August.
Nissan is in the midst of a management transition after last month removing Ghosn from the chairman post following his arrest. The company said it had conducted a months-long internal probe after a whistle-blower report and found that the former leader engaged in "significant acts of misconduct."
He was arrested by Tokyo prosecutors on Nov. 19 on suspicion of violating the Financial Instruments and Exchange Act by reporting only 5 billion yen of his 10 billion yen compensation package during the five years from fiscal 2010.
Ghosn has denied the allegation, according to investigative sources.