Japan's Kobe Steel reports wider fudging of metals data

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                                                            |By Yuka Obayashi

Following revelations that the embattled steelmaker had falsified data for its iron powder, aluminum and copper products that has affected companies ranging from automakers to airplane manufacturers, Kobe Steel Ltd. Chairman and President Hiroya Kawasaki said there could be more cases contributing to the unfolding scandal. Kobe Steel is carrying out technical verifications with its customers on the impact of the non-conforming products and has so far not found any quality and safety issues that require any recalls, Tsuchida added.

Toyota and Nissan are among about 200 affected companies. A government spokesman on Wednesday criticized the apparently widespread falsification of data as "inappropriate", saying it could undermine product safety.

United States carmaker General Motors is the latest manufacturer to check whether its cars contain falsely certified parts or components sourced from the the firm, Japan's third-biggest steelmaker.

Japan's "Shinkansen" bullet trains also used Kobe Steel's aluminum, as did high-speed trains in Britain, according to engineering firm Hitachi.

Kobe Steel said it would work with its customers to ascertain "the impact of the nonconforming products on quality (including safety) of the end products".

He promised that Kobe Steel will carry out an in-house investigation into the matter, while the ministry demanded that the company report the results of the probe in about two weeks.

"Kobe Steel's technology is not something easily substitutable by others, and existing customers have nowhere else to go", said Yasuo Sakuma, Chief Investment Officer at Libra Investments in Tokyo. "We have confirmed that aluminum from Kobe Steel is used in the hoods and doors of some of our vehicles", Nissan said in an email.

The scandal is one of several to have embroiled Japanese manufacturers in recent years, and has called into question the country's reputation for quality control.

In one of the largest, auto parts maker Takata Corp. has paid $1 billion in penalties for concealing an air bag defect blamed for at least 19 deaths worldwide. "Putting the utmost priority on the safety of our customers, we are rapidly working to identify which vehicle models might be subject to this situation and what components were used, as well as what effect there might be on individual vehicles", Toyota said in a statement.

Both Honda and Mazda use Kobe aluminium in the bonnets of some of their cars.

The growing number of cases of data tampering at Kobe Steel has caused a safety scare along the global supply chain.

"There's a possibility that there will be new cases of wrongdoing", Kawasaki said.

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.

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