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Nissan inspection scandal: Trainees checked cars

Staff Writer |
Nissan Motor released an internal report blaming a scandal that shut down production and hammered domestic sales on a shortage of inspectors, which went unnoticed by management.

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Nissan Motor submitted a detailed report to the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism (MLIT) regarding nonconforming final vehicle inspections at its plants in Japan and countermeasures to prevent recurrence.

Japan’s final inspection system (kanken) is a standard based on Japanese laws and regulations.

Based on this system, Nissan carries out final inspections for Japan-market vehicles on behalf of MLIT. The kanken issue demonstrated a failure to fulfill that obligation, which in turn damaged MLIT’s trust in Nissan.

At the five vehicle manufacturing plants, excluding Auto Works Kyoto (Oppama, Tochigi, Nissan Motor Kyushu, Nissan Shatai Shonan, Nissan Shatai Kyushu), it had become a normal practice for final inspectors in training to conduct kanken tasks mainly in the tester inspection process.

The final inspectors in training used final inspector name stamps borrowed from a registered final inspector to stamp kanken sheets.

In some of the plants, a ledger was used to manage and enable inspectors to lend and borrow the final inspector stamps.

There were cases in which foremen and instructors purchased and lent spare final inspector stamps to final inspectors in training without notifying the final inspectors whose names were on the stamps.

While differing in form, it appears that nonconforming final inspections became the norm by the 1990s at many of the plants. The investigation also noted the possibility that such practices may have existed at the Tochigi Plant since 1979.

MLIT conducted an on-site investigation of the Nissan Shatai Shonan plant on September 18, where it discovered nonconforming kanken.

Although Nissan took preventive measures by September 20 to address the issue, the investigation team and Nissan’s internal investigation team later discovered that at Nissan Shatai Shonan, its Oppama and Tochigi plants, and at the Nissan Kyushu and Nissan Shatai Kyushu plants, certain parts of the kanken process were still being carried out by final inspectors in training and other employees.

They also discovered that some of the kanken check items had been transferred from the kanken line to other lines, without notifying MLIT.

At multiple plants, part of the kanken had been changed without revising the kanken sheet and notifying MLIT, and some of the kanken tasks were carried out within different processes, such as the marketability inspection and the off-line inspection.

As a result of such changes, some employees other than final inspectors performed kanken tasks.

In addition, at the Tochigi Plant, one of the kanken tasks (welcome light turning off), might not have been performed due to such changes.

The investigation revealed that the process to register final inspectors did not follow the internal registration and training standards at each plant.

On a total headcount basis, enough workers were assigned to run the entire respective plant, including the kanken. However, the kanken is carried out on behalf of the Japanese government.

This brings special responsibility, and this responsibility in particular was not properly considered when deciding staffing for the kanken.

Headcount reduction rates allocated to each plant applied uniformly across the whole plant, and special consideration was not given to secure final inspectors.

In addition, in the process of making headcount adjustments, management of the plants and headquarters did not take into account that a number of months were required to train a final inspector and that instructors were necessary to train and supervise final inspectors in training.

Therefore, the plants had a shortage or no surplus (no one to stand in if a final inspector was absent) in the number of final inspectors.

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