Less than a month ago, Mitsubishi admitted to lying about fuel economy stats for roughly 620,000 cars sold in Japan. The scandal affected another major automaker, too, because Mitsubishi produced 482,000 of the affected vehicles for Nissan.
But wait, it gets worse: though the issue initially appeared limited to smaller vehicles, Mitsubishi now believes that none of the vehicles it produced for the Japanese market live up to their stated fuel economy.
Though the automaker's internal investigation is ongoing, it appears that the problem has at least three underlying causes:
- The difficulty of engineering increasingly efficient vehicles (sound familiar?)
- The lack of internal safeguards to ensure the accuracy of fuel economy stats
- The fact that Mitsubishi has knowingly avoided following Japan's efficiency test guidelines since 1991
The first two issues resulted in Mitsubishi employees fabricating fuel economy figures on at least five occasions.
Effect on the U.S.
Beyond that potentially time-consuming and costly endeavor, Mitsubishi may be hobbled by fines, fixes, and other costs associated with the scandal in Japan. And that, in turn, could force the company to make some hard decisions about where to invest its time, money, and energy.
At the moment, Mitsubishi is improving in the U.S., with sales up nine percent for the year. (In fact, April sales were up nearly 18 percent above April 2015). However, U.S. sales haven't topped 100,000 units since 2007--and then, only barely. Will the scandal cause Mitsubishi to follow the lead of other Japanese automakers like Suzuki and Isuzu and depart? Stay tuned.