Inconsistent explanations provided by Mitsubishi Motors Corp. (MMC) officials about its altering of fuel efficiency data on some of its vehicle models highlights a lack of a sense of crisis by the company's board of directors.
In an extremely rare move, the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry instructed MMC to file a third report on the scandal by May 18. "The company is far from clarifying the entire picture of the case," says a senior ministry official.
During a two-hour news conference on May 11, MMC officials, including President Tetsuro Aikawa, denied that the company was involved in the falsification of data as an entity while failing to clarify the entire picture of the falsification scandal.
Osamu Masuko, chairman of MMC who has appeared in public for the first time since the scandal surfaced on April 20, said explanations provided by Aikawa and others are "far from clear and convincing."
An employee in a managerial position at Mitsubishi Automotive Engineering Co. (MAE), a car development subsidiary, intentionally altered fuel efficiency data for four mini vehicle models, including the "eK Wagon" that went on sale in June 2013, according to explanations by the company at the press conference.
As competition with its rival automakers was intensifying, members of the developing team within MAE shared the view that fuel efficiency is the most appealing point for consumers, according to Aikawa. MMC officials added that the employee altered the data as he felt that the team must achieve fuel efficiency targets set by company executives and higher-ranking managers by any means.
The employee, who was responsible for reducing the running resistance of vehicles -- basic data for fuel efficiency -- altered the data in order to make it look as if the team had achieved the fuel efficiency goals.
However, MMC officials stopped short of disclosing what kind of explanations the MAE employee provided during questioning on the grounds that the in-house probe is still ongoing. Still, the officials emphasized that the company was not involved in the data falsification as an entity.
Reporters asked critical questions about the explanation, which appeared to place the blame on the subsidiary.
In response, Koji Yokomaku, general manager of the MMC development department, commented, "The MAE employee says he didn't receive any instruction from MMC executives but consulted with them." He later said that MMC "may have been consulted with by the MAE employee."
Another official said, "I saw the relevant data but it is really difficult to understand."
When MMC disclosed the scandal on April 20, the company explained that a manager at the automobile performance testing department played a leading role in altering fuel efficiency data.
At a news conference after filing a report with the ministry on April 26, however, the company denied the manager in question was involved in the falsification. As the in-house probe progresses, the mystery surrounding the scandal only deepens.
The most important task MMC faces now is a third report on the case that the company has been instructed to file with the ministry.
MMC intends to report any more cases of data falsification, if found, to the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry, but a senior ministry official said MMC data is not trustworthy.