Mitsubishi has been caught with its kimono down

EDITOR'S BLOG: It's no surprise the latest scandal-hit car company hails from Japan.

by Matthew Gwyther
Last Updated: 22 Apr 2016

It’s little surprise to anyone that second out of the blocks in the global car emission scandal is a Japanese company - Mitsubishi. Nobody knows yet exactly what happened and it is too soon to jump to conclusions. But it’s unlikely to be a devilishly cunning scheme the likes of which VW was caught using last year. Quite frankly any company that calls its vehicles ekWagon and ekSpace (as in ‘By ek , they’ve really caught us with our kimonos down this time’) may have it coming to them. The eks aren’t sold in the UK and really have been touched by the ugly stick as you can see here.

When it comes to lack of transparency and supine corporate cultures filled with yes men the Japanese wrote the book. And no amount of strange, tearful bowing and saying sorry ever makes it better. Way back in 2012 when i was involved in writing a book about the amazing Olympus scandal I had this to say:

The Olympus affair highlighted many serious, long-standing worries about the conduct of Japanese business. Not merely dodgy dealing and the hiding of financial losses - tobashi, as the widespread practice is known (literally 'fly away') - but also poor levels of corporate governance; the most tin-eared approach to PR and communications outside the North Korean politburo; scant regard for the interests of shareholders; weak and indifferent regulators; and a culture of denial that persists in believing that problems, if kicked like a can down the road, will eventually just go away.

I haven’t been back to Tokyo since then but nobody says much has changed. And in the UK few will be overly exercised by these Mitsubishi revelations as they have a very small market share indeed.

In fact one wonders how much the general public actually cares. Sure American lawyers regard the VW affair as Christmas coming every week. They will be filling their boots for decades. But most drivers know full well that the cars they buy never achieve the fuel consumption figures that manufacturers claim. People buy brands, as those who continue to pile into Audis - powered by the very same naughty VW engines - show full well.

By the way if you want to read a wonderful novel about the insular, mysterious and hidden Japanese may I recommend The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell who wrote the stunning Cloud Atlas. It is set in Nagasaki in 1799 and features Dutch East India Company frigates rather than Mitsubishi runabouts but is a perfect parable for the way the country is run now.

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