Photo/Illutration Brice Koch, right, president and CEO of Hitachi Astemo Ltd., addresses the falsification of data of its automotive products at an online news conference on Dec. 22. (Osamu Uchiyama)

A Hitachi Ltd. subsidiary that makes automotive parts has acknowledged it was involved in misconduct dating back 20 years.

The improper behavior included faking data in routine brake testing and shipping suspension parts that did not meet the required standards.

Hitachi Astemo Ltd. supplied the questionable products to 16 companies, including leading domestic automakers.

The company apologized for the malpractice at an online news conference on Dec. 22, but declined to provide further details, citing the confidentiality of the contracts.

Hitachi Astemo said it is now trying to determine how many cars used those parts.

Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Co., Honda Motor Co. and Subaru Corp. each received those products, an Asahi Shimbun investigation found.

Although the parts are believed to have been used in many vehicles, Hitachi Astemo said it does not believe they pose any safety or performance problems.

Toyota said an in-house inspection of the parts conducted based on data provided by Hitachi Astemo showed no problems with their performance or safety. Nissan, Honda and Subaru reported similar assessments.

Hitachi Astemo said fake data was listed in the inspection reports for five kinds of brake products manufactured at its Yamanashi factory in Minami-Alps, Yamanashi Prefecture, without having conducted any of the testing it agreed upon with its client companies.

The products were supplied to nine client companies.

Between October 2003 and March 2021, fake data was listed in about 57,000 cases.

At its Fukushima factory in Kori, Fukushima Prefecture, testing outcomes of two varieties of suspension parts had been falsified to meet a range of figures under the required standards.

They were shipped to five client companies. This kind of falsification was discovered in 259 cases, apparently starting in 2000.

Apart from this, the same factory had supplied 4.8 million units of four kinds of suspension parts that did not comply with the standards to 14 client companies since April 2018.

In addition, the company shipped 5.3 million units after it had altered the test results.

Hitachi Astemo was established in January by merging four automotive part manufacturers under the Hitachi and Honda groups. Hitachi controls 66.6 percent of the company.

The two factories belonged to the Hitachi group before the merger.

The misconduct first surfaced thanks to a whistleblower in December 2020, when Hitachi Ltd.’s quality assurance department audited group companies.

Hitachi Astemo confirmed the malfeasance at the Yamanashi factory in January and admitted the wrongdoing for the first time on Dec. 22.

But Hitachi’s investigation was apparently insufficient. The malpractice at the Fukushima factory continued until October.

Brice Koch, president and CEO of Hitachi Astemo, said at the news conference the company had to wait until this month to announce the misconduct as it has been going through thousands of records to grasp the details and put in place measures to correct the situation.

Koch said data was falsified because workers did not realize the importance of the testing and the company had allocated an insufficient number of workers to conduct it properly.

The latest announcement follows a flurry of data-fabrication scandals at major Hitachi subsidiaries.

One involved then-Hitachi Chemical Co., whose large-scale falsification of data on the performance of industrial-use rechargeable batteries came to light in 2018.

That prompted Hitachi to launch thorough investigations into the quality of products and the inspection systems of its group companies.

Two years later, however, similar misconduct was revealed at Hitachi Metals Ltd.

(This article was written by Koichi Murakami and Kenji Izawa.)