TOKYO • Japan's transport ministry yesterday said inspections at five of six plants making Nissan Motor cars found stamps of certified technicians on documents signing off checks by non-certified technicians on vehicles for the domestic market.
The comment comes as Japan's second-biggest automaker on Monday issued a recall on all 1.2 million passenger cars sold domestically over the past three years due to the issue.
The recall includes all of the 386,000 passenger vehicles Nissan sold in Japan last year, and top sellers like the Serena minivan and the Note compact hatchback were among models affected.
Vehicles destined for the domestic market must undergo an additional final procedure performed by certified technicians before being registered with the transport ministry.
Uncertified technicians at Nissan included contract workers, Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Keiichi Ishii said at a regular news briefing yesterday.
"It's extremely regrettable, causing anxiety for users and shaking the foundation of the certification system," Mr Ishii said. The ministry is working to discern whether and how widely the practice was known, he added.
The use of uncertified personnel constitutes the second major instance of misconduct involving a Japanese automaker in under two years, after Mitsubishi Motors said it tampered with fuel-economy tests of some domestic-market models.
Nissan said all recalled vehicles would undergo re-inspections for final checks on issues, including steering radius and braking and acceleration capabilities, at a cost of around 25 billion yen (S$302 million).
"We must take the registration framework and procedures seriously, regardless of how busy we may be or how short-staffed we may be," Nissan chief executive Hiroto Saikawa said at a media conference. "We apologise for the inconvenience caused to our customers."
Mr Saikawa added that the company was investigating how the inspections took place, a process expected to take around a month. A third party will participate in an internal investigation, he said.
Passenger car sales in Japan account for roughly 10 per cent of Nissan's global sales. The announcement came after Nissan said last week it would suspend the registration of 60,000 vehicles over unauthorised inspections.
Nissan exported around 560,000 vehicles produced in Japan last year to North America, Europe and other markets. Its spokesman Nick Maxfield said there was no difference in quality between cars made in Japan for the domestic market and those made for export.