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Automotive Villain of 2017: Japanese suppliers

2017-12-18 07:00

SLIPPERY SLOPE: Shares in embattled airbag maker Takata soared more than 40% on June 23 after collapsing over the past week on bets that the crisis-hit firm will file for bankruptcy next week. Image: AFP / Kazuhiro Nogi

Lance Branquinho

It has been a year of peak disruption in the automotive industry. Tesla promises a utopian future, but it is unable to build enough cars to make that vision a reality, whilst Volkswagen virtually collapses the future for diesel with its emissions control software dishonesty.

Although the VW emissions issue has been a blotch on the image of German corporate governance, it has not influenced the perception of German engineering quality. That can’t be said for the Japanese industry, renowned for its conservatism and exacting standards.

Defective airbags

The greatest villains of 2017 sourced from Japan, where two suppliers of critical car componentry were found to have endangered lives by lying for profit.

Despite a corporate slogan of ‘Quality First’ Takata’s deceit was shown to be terrifying. The airbag manufacturer delivered defective airbags to millions of cars, made all the worse, by engineers knowingly passing the products through all quality checks.

The scandal matured to such a crisis, 16 fatalities were attributed, that Takata was forced to file for bankruptcy after paying R10bn to resolve litigation relating to automotive companies and car owners. 

Unfortunately, for Japanese engineering status, Takata wasn’t alone. Kobe steel admitted that it had falsified the specification of many special copper and alloy products, possibly nullifying the structural integrity of cars built with Kobe materials. With its customers including Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Ford and GM; contagion from the Kobe specification dishonesty will not be easily contained. 


In your opinion, which manufacturer do you think is the automotive villain of 2017? Email us


German engineers tried to be sneaky, cheating an emissions test. Japanese technical personnel, knowingly, lied about the performance of critical safety components, which were under-engineered.

Both countries are manufacturing powerhouses in the car business, but one suspects that Japan will suffer a greater legacy of shame and reduced demand, than Germany.

Slyness can be understood, stupidity, often not. 


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