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Japanese plane seat maker admits falsifying safety data

Wednesday, February 10, 2010
TOKYO (AFP) - – Japan's Koito Industries has admitted to fabricating safety data for seats in more than 1,000 aircraft used by 32 carriers, striking another blow to corporate Japan's image of reliability.
The Yokohama-based company used fake strength test data for more than 150,000 seats used in the Boeing and Airbus aircraft of customers including Air Canada, KLM, Scandinavian Airlines and Singapore Airlines.
Among the affected aircraft were some 300 jets of domestic carriers Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways (ANA).
Transport minister Seiji Maehara rebuked Okito for its way of handling the trouble, calling it "vicious."
Japan's transport ministry has already instructed the company to improve its business operations, but stressed there was no problem with the planes continuing to fly.
The manufacturer omitted part of a test process and used figures from past tests, the ministry said, adding that the data falsification could have been going on since the mid-1990s.
"That the company had intentionally fabricated data was extremely vicious," Maehara told reporters late Tuesday. "It's shameful that Japanese companies fabricate data. Koito must face some stern social punishment."
The nation's largest plane seat maker was ordered by the ministry to retest the products to confirm their safety and would fix them if necessary, the company said.
"I deeply apologise," company president Takashi Kakegawa told a news conference late Monday. "The whole section in charge was systematically involved in it," he said, explaining that the company had been worried "that we would delay our delivery if we failed in tests."
The seat maker is a subsidiary of Koito Manufacturing, an auto parts maker affiliated with Toyota Motor, which is now under fire over recalls of millions of vehicles worldwide due to problems with gas pedals and brakes.
Toyota Motor has no direct equity stake in Koito Industries. Related article: Toyota to recall hybrids
A transport ministry official said on condition of anonymity that the authorities had been alerted to Koito's problem after they "received several reports from insiders" over the company's data fabrication.
"We will make copy samples of already delivered products, retest the safety standard and possibly decide on a recall if the samples fail to meet the standards," said Koito spokesman Yoichiro Kuroiwa.
The data-cooking scandal has delayed deliveries of seats for two of ANAs' Boeing 737-800 planes, a spokeswoman of the carrier said, adding that the company would continue flying its aircraft as usual.
"About 26,000 seats are subjected to safety checking by the ministry and Koito," said ANA spokeswoman Nana Kon.
"But it will not affect our current flight schedule as the authorities have decided it would not cause an immediate safety concern."

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