In the latest scandal to hit the automobile industry, Mitsubishi Motors said Wednesday that it had cheated on fuel economy tests for an ultrasmall car it produces in Japan, acknowledging its engineers had intentionally manipulated evaluations.
The cheating affected about 620,000 cars sold in the Japanese market starting in 2013, Tetsuro Aikawa, Mitsubishi’s president, said at a news conference.
But the problem could stretch beyond that make of car. Aikawa said that the same testing method, which was in violation of Japanese standards, was used on other models in the country and that Mitsubishi was investigating whether fuel economy ratings for other lines had been exaggerated as a result.
“It has become clear that improper testing methods were used to improve the appearance of fuel efficiency,” Aikawa said before he and other company leaders bowed in apology. Company executives called the manipulation of tests on the microcar, called the eK, “intentional.”
The cheating at Mitsubishi appears to have been exposed by an unexpected source: another Japanese carmaker, Nissan Motor.
Mitsubishi manufactures the eK and sells it at dealerships in Japan. But it also supplies versions of the car to Nissan, which markets them under a different name, the Dayz.
Nissan took over development and design work on the eK and Dayz last year. It was then, Aikawa said, that Nissan’s engineers noticed the discrepancy in the published fuel rating — ostensibly an impressive 25 to 30 kilometers per liter, or 60 to 70 mpg, depending on the version — and confronted Mitsubishi. He said the company would pay compensation to Nissan, with the amount subject to negotiation.
Aikawa said he and other top executives were unaware of the manipulation until it was pointed out by Nissan, at which point Mitsubishi began an internal investigation. It remained unclear who ordered the cheating, he said, but Mitsubishi plans to ask an independent commission of experts to conduct a more thorough inquiry.