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Fallout from Japan’s car testing scandal spreads, ensnares Honda

Takaki Nakanishi, CEO of the Tokyo-based Nakanishi Research Institute and a specialist in the auto sector, said the domestic media had exaggerated the extent of the saga but the spotlight could still hurt Japanese carmakers.

“The ministry wants to keep using the Japanese testing and certification system, even though that is quite old,” Nakanishi said.

“But Toyota and the other companies say they wanted to test and certify under global rules that are followed by the US and European countries and set even higher conditions.”

Japanese manufacturers “were making cars that were better than the Japanese standards required,” he said, “but by not following the domestic rules, they were in violation.”

In addition to Honda, ministry inspectors have visited the headquarters of Toyota Motor, Yamaha Motor and Suzuki Motor, with an investigation at Mazda Motor expected next.

In total, 38 models by Honda, Toyota, Yamaha and Suzuki were found to have not undergone proper certification for safety and environmental performance, based on the companies’ statements and media reports.

Discrepancies in the certification testing process also surfaced last year at Daihatsu Motor and Toyota Industries, both part of the Toyota Group. The ministry then instructed 85 companies in the auto sector to investigate any deviations from required testing regimes over the previous 10 years and report their findings.

The certification system is critical to assess whether a vehicle meets safety and other requirements. Japanese carmakers have to ensure a new model is certified before its sale and inform the ministry of the certification without the need for external inspections.

Self-policing in safety and certification has historically proved problematic for companies