Nissan: Falsified emissions data

Nissan has announced that it has been incorrectly measuring emissions for 19 different car models sold in Japan since 2013. 

The Japanese car manufacturer has revealed that in a sample testing that took place across six Japanese plants, over 50% of the tests found data falsification (2,200 sample tests / 1,200 tests found data falsification). Employees reportedly altered emissions and fuel-economy data for 913 cars tested as far back as 2013, according to a statement by Nissan

The scandal is added to a series of scandals that have recently plagued the Japanese car manufacturing industry. Nissan and Subaru recently admitted to having conducted erroneous safety checks for cars sold in Japan for years. In the case of Nissan, more than a million vehicles were recalled to be reexamined. 

According to the New York Times, Nissan's internal review found that all models (except from the Nissan GT-R, a low production performance vehicle for which conclusive data is not yet available) complied with Japanese safety and emissions standards, despite the falsified data used. Moreover, the falsification did not affect fuel-economy findings.

The revelation raises two interesting questions with respect to the automotive industry.

The first question is whether the news, which have so far shaved almost 5% off of Nissan's stock value will affect a potential restructuring of the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi group, which has been the speculated for some time. Yesterday, the Financial Times explored the intra-group power dynamics, concluding Nissan may have the upper hand now, due to Mitsubishi's strong recovery (Mitsubishi had suffered after a similar scandal emerged about its cars two years ago). The potential effect of today's news may deprive Nissan of its strong hand. 

The second question that arises pertains to fuel efficiency and fuel usage, more generally. Over the past few years, popular automakers have either admitted to or been accused of falsifying emissions data, a phenomenon largely known as Dieselgate, after Volkswagen was found to manipulate emissions testing in their diesel-powered vehicles. One would be right to ask: if emissions data are so hard to verify, is it time for governments to adopt a more bullish stance with regard to subsidies for EVs and, more generally, regulation that would facilitate full transition to electric-powered vehicles? 

A silver lining: Such scandals may be actually helping faster transition to EVs, as automakers are trying to move away from their "sinful" oil-based past. 

Photo Credit: Jakob Harter

Andrew Kyprianides