Second quake absorber maker admits faking data

Earthquake-prone Japan was yesterday jolted by a confession by another seismic shock absorber maker Kawakin Holdings that it has been faking product-quality data for over 10 years, the second such scandal to surface within one week.

KYB Corporation, the market leader with a 40 per cent share, admitted last week to using subpar products in more than 1,000 buildings across Japan. These include the Tokyo Station, Haneda Airport international terminal, several sporting venues for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and the Tokyo Skytree.

The extent of data-rigging in the Kawakin case is smaller, with 93 structures across Japan identified, including 30 schools and 16 prefectural government buildings.

But, to get a sense of exactly how widespread the problem is, the Land and Infrastructure Ministry has ordered all 88 domestic makers of quake absorbers to review their internal procedures and come clean within one week if they find anything untoward. Even so, given that the affected products are marginally below quality standards, the government has taken pains to stress that there is no risk that the buildings will collapse even in a tremor at the top of Japan's seismic intensity scale.

Kawakin president Shinkichi Suzuki told a news conference yesterday that it was KYB's confession that led him to initiate an internal review of his firm's practices.

The affected products were found to have been shipped between February 2005 and last month. Meanwhile, the company is still investigating the extent to which inferior devices were shipped abroad, including to Taiwan, which was rattled by a magnitude 6.0 earthquake yesterday.

KYB, whose malpractice since 2003 only came to light thanks to a whistle-blower report in August, has said that some inferior products have been exported to Taiwan.

 
 

The firm aims to finish replacing all the faulty devices by September 2020, and will not take any new orders until then, a report in the Mainichi Shimbun said yesterday.

These two cases follow a similar scandal in March 2015, when Toyo Tire and Rubber was found to have used subpar quake-resistant rubber products in 154 buildings.

Since last year, Japan Inc has had to weather a string of corporate governance and product-quality scandals involving a number of storied manufacturers, including Kobe Steel, Mitsubishi Materials, Toray Industries and Fujikura, and carmakers Nissan and Subaru.

The Asahi Shimbun warned in an editorial last Friday that the credibility of Japanese manufacturing was at stake. Japanese products were once known for their "kajo hinshitsu" (excessive quality), it said, but recent revelations have raised suspicions that the products were actually of "kaku hinshitsu" (fictitious quality).

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2018, with the headline 'Second quake absorber maker admits faking data'. Print Edition | Subscribe