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Nissan's path to restore trust after data scandal murky; top execs skip news conference

Nissan Motor Co. Chief Competitive Officer Yasuhiro Yamauchi, center, and other officials offer an apology at a news conference at the company's headquarters in Yokohama's Nishi Ward, on Sept. 26, 2018. (Mainichi/Naoki Watanabe)

Questions linger over how Nissan Motor Co. will restore public trust in the wake of an emissions and fuel economy data fabrication scandal, with top company officials including President Hiroto Saikawa staying away from a news conference the firm held on Sept. 26 to disclose a report on the misconduct.

Hours before the news conference, the company submitted a final report to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism compiled by lawyers and others tasked with investigating the fabrication.

The report pointed to the lack of a sufficient compliance system, among other issues. It stated, "Many inspectors who performed inadequate inspections justified their own actions as 'not running counter to safety standards,' and they went as far as to overwrite measurement data." The finding points to a lack of morals and sense of responsibility among workers at the company.

Speaking to the media at around noon on Sept. 26, before the company's news conference, Saikawa told reporters, "Strengthening compliance is a never-ending task. It is my duty to perform work that will leave as few future sources of trouble as possible."

The automaker has announced it will invest approximately 180 billion yen ($1.59 billion) over the next six years on measures to prevent such fabrication in the future, and hire around 670 inspectors this fiscal year, among other actions. However, it remains unclear how effective these initiatives will be in preventing a relapse and restoring damaged trust. In the past, the company has announced preventive measures following the discovery of misconduct only for other problems to surface.

Neither Saikawa nor the company's chairman, Carlos Ghosn, attended the Sept. 26 news conference at the firm's headquarters in Yokohama. Chief Competitive Officer Yasuhiro Yamauchi, who announced the misconduct in July, told reporters, "I'm the person in charge of taking countermeasures, and so I'm providing the explanations." He stressed that he had appropriately filed reports to the board and had received instructions from Ghosn.

However, the managerial responsibility of top company officials, including their responsibility to account for the misconduct, remains an issue.

Yasuhiro Daisho, a professor emeritus at Waseda University specializing in automotive engineering, commented, "The problem is that there is no collaboration path between top management and those on the scene. To prevent a recurrence, there needs to be communication allowing them to stay alert regarding employees and their work environment."

(Japanese original by Naoya Matsumoto and Shiho Fujibuchi, Business News Department)

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