Japan’s transport ministry raided small-car maker Suzuki’s headquarters on Friday, in the wake of its shock admission that it used improper fuel-testing methods for years, affecting millions of cars.
Officials descended on the company’s base in Hamamatsu city, around 250 kilometres (155 miles) southwest of Tokyo, saying they were hunting for documents linked to the under-fire emissions and fuel-economy testing.
“We are raiding Suzuki’s headquarters to confirm the information that the company supplied to the ministry,” an official in charge of automotive safety told AFP.
The agency also raided the office of rival Mitsubishi Motors after its shock revelation in April that it had cheated on fuel-efficiency tests for decades.
Suzuki, which was for years led by its 86-year-old chairman Osamu Suzuki -- a direct descendant of the company’s founding family -- has admitted to using a testing method not approved by Japanese regulators.
But it has repeatedly insisted it had not meant to deceive drivers.
The company said in a statement it will “fully cooperate” with the transport ministry, but declined to speculate on what sort of financial penalties it could face.
“We’ll just have to wait and see,” a company spokesman told AFP.
Instead, the company claimed this week the problem was linked to scaling back resources earmarked for testing in the wake of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, which set off the world financial crisis.
After the Lehman shock “the increased workload of developing new models and engines led Suzuki to be unable to allocate sufficient manpower for the (approved) test,” it said Tuesday.
“In addition, (we) failed to invest in necessary infrastructure... as well as to make efforts to improve testing technology.”
Suzuki’s Tokyo-listed shares dropped 0.92% to 2,829.5 yen by lunch break on Friday, following reports of the raid.
The company has confirmed that 26 vehicle models were involved, about half produced for other automakers, since it started using the unapproved testing in 2010.
More than two million cars, all sold in Japan, were affected, it said.
The Suzuki revelations come during a tough time for the global industry.
Japan’s transport ministry ordered all domestic automakers to probe their own compliance with government testing methods following Mitsubishi’s revelations that it manipulated fuel-economy data.
Germany’s Volkswagen, meanwhile, is struggling to drive past a worldwide emissions cheating scandal, while Tokyo-based auto parts giant Takata has been hit by lawsuits and regulatory probes over claims it hid deadly airbag flaws linked to at least 13 deaths and scores of injuries globally.