mitsubishi-logo-smallIn another blow to trust, on April 21st, the International New York Times reported that:

“Mitsubishi Motors said … that it had cheated on fuel-economy tests for an ultrasmall car it produces in Japan, acknowledging its engineers had intentionally manipulated evaluations.”

It’s known that at least 620,000 cars sold in Japan are affected but the scandal may be much larger.  And this after the company admitted in 2000 that it had been hiding reports on vehicle defects for more than two decades!

The practice was brought to light after Nissan Motors engineers, who took over engineering and development of the models identified in 2015, noticed problems with the test results and the Mitsubishi reports.

This sounds very much like the VW scandal – engineers fudging tests results to look good because management didn’t – or won’t – invest in achieving honest results.

It’s another leadership failure.

Mitsubishi’s president, Tetsuro Aikawa and other top executives claim to be unaware of the falsification until Nissan notified them.  They then did the usual internal investigation but it was unclear who ordered the cheating.  Now they plan to have an “independent commission of experts to conduct a more thorough inquiry.”  The likelihood this commission will find anything that the internal investigation didn’t is remote.

So what is the take away?  Don’t trust automobile manufacturers?  That might be a good start but there is one simple thing for consumers to do – check your mileage.  Of course, this involves math but with smartphones and calculator apps it’s not hard.  Most every car comes with a trip mileage counter – I reset the counter every time I fill up with gas.  The number of miles is written on the receipt and I divide the miles by the gallons and I have the gas mileage.  It’s as simple as that – and I have a good indication of the health of my engine at the same time.  If you are getting consistently lower gas mileage than you should be, then it’s time to talk to the dealer.

What you are really doing is verifying the manufacturer’s claims – borrowing Ronald Reagan’s famous “Trust, but verify” philosophy.

For the manufacturers, they ought to be doing the same.  What happened at Mitsubishi is the same problem at VW which was the same problem the morning that the Challenger was launched – as the International New York Times reported in the same article “Hyundai, Kia, Ford and the Mini division of BMW have all been forced by United States regulators to lower their fuel-economy ratings for various lines.”  The problem is management doesn’t want to hear about problems, they just want results – good results.  As long as the results look good we are not going to rock the boat by questioning them.

Eventually, someone will fall on their sword for Mitsubishi – hopefully, not literally – someone who wrote a memo or gave a presentation or make a comment – whatever.

But the real problem was the leadership that created an environment where lying became acceptable behavior.  That’s not likely to be addressed at Mitsubishi.

A physicist by trade, author by choice, a born teacher, a retired veteran, and an adamant problem solver, Frank has helped the White House, federal agencies, military offices, historical museums, manufacturers, and over 250 technology startups get stuff done, communicate effectively, and find practical solutions that work for them. In his spare time, he makes sawdust and watches Godzilla movies.