Published: Fri, October 13, 2017
Science | By Cecil Little

Bad parts in bullet trains reveal widening Kobe Steel crisis

Bad parts in bullet trains reveal widening Kobe Steel crisis

"I deeply apologize for causing concern to many people, including all users and consumers", Kobe Steel CEO Hiroya Kawasaki said at a meeting with a senior official from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry on Thursday.

Earlier the company said that in the year up to August 31 it had sold materials such as aluminum flat-rolled products, aluminum extrusions, copper strips, copper tubes and aluminum castings and forgings using falsified data on such things as the products' strength.

Currently, it is unclear if this false labeling was an intentional deception by the company or merely resulted from a cascading series of oversights.

"There are suspicious cases in Japan and overseas that could involve further wrongdoing, as the ongoing investigation has not been completed", Kawasaki told a press briefing on the matter, following a meeting with an official from the trade ministry.

MHI said Kobe Steel products were used on its Mitsubishi Regional Jet and rockets, including a H-2A rocket launched on Tuesday to put a navigation satellite into orbit.

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Investors, anxious about the financial impact and potential legal fallout, again dumped Kobe Steel stock, wiping about $1.6 billion off its market value in two days.

General Motors, Boeing and Toyota are among the firms checking their models.

"We want Kobe Steel to make the utmost effort to restore trust from society", he said.

So far, there has been "no real change" in customer orders, and the company's procurement of aluminium and copper metal raw materials is also normal given that production is not affected, Kobe Steel spokesman Gary Tsuchida told Metal Bulletin.

The company had also revealed Wednesday that an internal probe found at least 140 tons of iron powder shipped in fiscal 2016 did not meet customer specifications. "The Company has been carrying out technical verifications with its customers on the impact of the nonconforming products on quality (including safety) of the end products".

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While there's no safety risk, two companies operating the high-speed Shinkansen trains said they found Kobe Steel components that failed to meet Japanese industry standards. The company plans to release the findings of safety checks for the products in about two weeks, and the causes of the issue and planned countermeasures within a month.

"The issue shakes the foundation of fair trade and is extremely regrettable".

Kobe Steel shares closed at the limit low after being untraded for the whole session, diving 22 percent to 1068 yen. Kobe's steel business would fetch roughly ¥200 billion ($1.78 billion), he said. "We are investigating any potential impact and do not have any additional comments at this time".

"General Motors is aware of the reports of material deviation in Kobe Steel copper and aluminum products", spokesman Nick Richards said.

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