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Japanese Ministry of Transport: Toyota’s safety tests do not meet UN regulations; Ministry will conduct its own tests for five vehicle manufacturers due to test fraud


Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Headquarters of Toyota Motor Corp

The Ministry of Transportation has concluded that six cases of misconduct by Toyota Motor Corp. regarding vehicle certification may violate not only domestic standards but also UN vehicle regulations, it has emerged.

The UN Vehicle Regulations are international safety and environmental standards adopted by 62 countries and regions, including Japan, South Korea and Europe. Given that Japan’s domestic car regulations are in line with those of the United Nations, the irregularities will most likely lead to manufacturers being banned from mass production of the vehicles involved in the scandal in Europe and elsewhere.

Monday marked a week since the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism announced that five carmakers had committed misconduct in model certification – a requirement for mass production of cars and motorcycles. The ministry will use the results of on-site inspections at each company to consider administrative measures under the Road Vehicles Act.

According to the ministry, any vehicle manufacturer that obtains model certification in Japan will automatically qualify for the same certification in 61 countries and regions, including Britain, Germany, France, Italy and South Korea, without the additional certification testing in each location. This procedure – called mutual recognition – helps reduce the burden on manufacturers operating abroad.

Six tests at Toyota found anomalies, including the following: (1) offset frontal crash tests, which assessed the level of passenger protection; (2) performance tests for pedestrian head and leg protection; (3) rear impact tests; and (4) engine power tests. These tests are also included in the UN Vehicle Regulations, which means that Toyota’s irregularities violate not only domestic, but also UN regulations.

Although Toyota claims it conducted some tests under stricter conditions than the national requirement, the ministry concluded that this was not necessarily the case.

Regarding pedestrian protection tests aimed at measuring the impact on the head of a pedestrian struck by a car, Toyota said at a press conference on June 3 that the company had used its development test data, which uses an impact angle of 65° instead of the 65° angle. requires 50°. Although the company apologized and said it should have performed the test again at a 50° impact angle, it claimed that 65° was a more stringent test.

However, according to sources close to the government, the severity of a safety test depends on factors such as the shape of the car’s hood; the difference in angle alone is not decisive.

Toyota also claimed that other tests were conducted under more stringent conditions than required. However, the government believes that it is impossible to say whether this was the case in all cases. Instead, it is highly likely that Europe and other regions will view Toyota’s misconduct as a regulatory violation.

In the wake of the scandal, some manufacturers have called on the government to streamline the vehicle certification system itself to ensure international competitiveness, and for other reasons. However, the Ministry of Transport is very concerned that lowering domestic standards to match those of the United Nations will lead to a loss of mutual recognition for domestic manufacturers, which would negatively impact their overseas operations.

The five companies, Toyota, Mazda Motor Corp., Yamaha Motor Co., Honda Motor Co. and Suzuki Motor Corp., insist that the 38 models involved in the scandal meet national standards and that people can continue to drive them without any problems. However, the Ministry of Transport plans to conduct its own tests on these models. The discovery of a deviation from government standards could lead to a recall within and outside Japan.

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