Mitsubishi Motors admits manipulating fuel economy data, shares tumble

Wed Apr 20, 2016 8:39am EDT
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By Naomi Tajitsu

TOKYO (Reuters) - Mitsubishi Motors Corp (7211.T: Quote) admitted to manipulating test data to overstate the fuel economy of 625,000 cars sold in Japan, knocking its shares down more than 15 percent and wiping $1.2 billion off its market value on Wednesday.

The automaker said it stopped making and selling its eK mini-wagons for the domestic market after Nissan Motor (7201.T: Quote), which markets a similar model made by Mitsubishi, found a discrepancy in fuel efficiency test data.

Mitsubishi Motors said the fuel economy levels of models made for the local market were up to a tenth lower than stated in its test results. It said it manipulated those levels to gain a favorable reading for its fuel economy certification.

As global emissions regulations tighten, fuel economy has become a major factor for environmental- and cost-conscious buyers.

Tetsuro Aikawa, the president of Japan's sixth-largest automaker, bowed in apology at a news conference in Tokyo for what is the biggest scandal at Mitsubishi Motors since a damaging defect cover-up over a decade ago.

"We'd like to apologize for the issue," Aikawa said. "The focus right now is to resolve this problem and prevent it from happening again ... it could be quite damaging."

Shares in Mitsubishi Motors closed down more than 15 percent at 733 yen, the stock's biggest one-day drop in almost 12 years. Shares in Nissan closed down 1 percent.

Mitsubishi Motors said the test manipulation involved 625,000 vehicles produced since mid-2013. These include its eK mini-wagon as well as 468,000 cars it made for Nissan, which markets them as the Dayz.   Continued...

Mitsubishi Motors Corp's President Tetsuro Aikawa attends a news conference to brief about issues of misconduct in fuel economy tests at the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry in Tokyo, Japan, April 20, 2016.  REUTERS/Toru Hanai