For the fifth straight day, shares of Mitsubishi plunged as the controversy surrounding the automaker’s admitted lying about its fuel efficiency figures continued to swell, leaving observers to wonder whether the company would survive. Today, the carmaker announced the formation of a three-member panel to investigate its testing program as its value slumped to 427 billion yen or $3.85 billion.
The newly named panel consists of three former prosecutors who have been tasked with probing the company’s testing program. The automaker has acknowledged that it has lied in its tests since 1991. Further, it has stated that it has ignored Japan’s testing standards for more than a decade-and-a-half.
In acknowledging its wrongdoing last week, the automaker’s board apologized. Today, it’s Mitsubishi’s president Tetsuo Aikawa, apologizing again, said: “Customers bought our cars based on incorrect fuel-economy data. I can’t help but apologize.” Aikawa told reporters he wasn’t aware of the improper testing as he indicated that the automaker hadn’t decided on how it will compensate customers.
When Mitsubishi disclosed last week, Mitsubishi said its wrongdoing centered on falsifying the test data on 625,000 minicars. Of those minicars, three-quarters were built for Nissan. Nissan found the data discrepancies and reported them the Mitsubishi. The Nissan models identified were the Dayz and Dayz Roox models. When discovered, Nissan was working on the next generation of minicars that Mitsubishi was to build, the eK Wagon and eK space.
Even as the company watched its value drop, the automaker was preparing to release positive news. According to reports, Mitsubishi, in its report on fourth-quarter income, to be released Wednesday, will indicate that net income increased 32 percent to 25.9 billion yen.
In related news, the Japanese government, responding to vehicle test irregularities, has formed a task force to deal with the crisis. Transport Minister Keiichi Ishii said, following a cabinet meeting in Tokyo, that the manipulation test data is “extremely serious.” And, the ministry indicated that Mitsubishi’s reporting was insufficient. The government agency said it wanted a new report by May 11 as it also noted that it would look for discrepancies on all Mitsubishi models.
Ryugo Nakao, the carmaker’s executive vice president, noted Tuesday that Mitsu may be forced to refund tax rebates for which it wasn’t eligible. And, he indicated that the automaker and Nissan were discussing potential compensation plans for Nissan customers.