Photo/IllutrationSuzuki Motor Corp. President Toshihiro Suzuki, second from right, and other company executives apologize at an April 12 news conference in Tokyo. (Shiro Nishihata)

Suzuki Motor Corp. announced April 12 it would recall about 2 million vehicles manufactured in domestic plants since April 2016 after admitting to more falsifications than it had previously acknowledged that involve key safety features, including brakes.

The recall is projected to cost the company about 80 billion yen ($714 million).

An investigative report by a team of outside lawyers released the same day referred to egregious handling of safety inspections by those in charge at the three plants in Japan.

In a surprise development, the report backtracked on a previous contention by Suzuki that there were no cases of inspections conducted by unqualified personnel.

In a stunning analysis, the report said the company's emphasis on cutting production cost for a more efficient manufacturing process gave "employees the mistaken impression that inspections of completed vehicles were unnecessary."

It noted that a corporate culture may have been fostered within the company "that led to a belittling of inspections."

Company officials said they would file a report with the transport ministry next week recalling 2 million or so vehicles manufactured since April 2016 that had not yet faced the initial regular safety vehicle inspection.

At an April 12 news conference, company president Toshihiro Suzuki apologized to customers for betraying their trust. But even with the report's allusion to company-wide neglect of the importance of adequate inspections, Suzuki said he would remain in his post to rebuild the corporate structure.

Falsified test data and inspections have expanded in range at almost every Suzuki Motor news conference about irregularities.

In August 2018, the company said there was no fabrication of test data regarding fuel economy and exhaust emissions, but admitted that measurements had been taken under conditions that went against approved procedures and that the collected data had been recognized as valid.

However, a month later, after the transport ministry pointed out problems, the company admitted that the test data itself had been falsified.

That led the ministry to call for an even more extensive investigation into other aspects of the company's inspection structure, leading to the latest report.

One conclusion reached was that inspection irregularities were uncovered in the process to check brakes, steering and the speedometer prior to having the cars shipped from the plants. The irregularities continued at three domestic plants between June 1981 and this past January.

The report said there was a possibility that 6,271 vehicles had been shipped out even though irregularities were involved in brake inspections, such as approving vehicles that did not meet standards or inflating the braking force.

Suzuki Motor also admitted that the seal of the inspection team head attached to documents for each vehicle was passed around and also used by other members who were not qualified to serve as inspectors.

The report also said the transport ministry did not uncover the use of unqualified inspectors last autumn because officials in charge of inspections at the three plants conspired in October to cover up the irregularity by destroying or falsifying documents.

Moreover, the report said during exams to qualify to become inspectors, those in charge of the exam gave out the correct answers to the test-takers.

However, company executives said on April 12 that there was no company-wide effort to cover up the fake inspections, saying the questionable acts did not go above those plant officials.

But there were also indications in the report that those in the manufacturing side of the company also asked those handling inspections to overlook any dodgy vehicles.

The inadequate safety inspections also extended to motorcycles produced by Suzuki Motor between 2000 and January of this year.