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Could Rapidly Evolving Kobe Steel Scandal Affect Motorcycle Manufacturers? (News)

  • October 11, 2017
  • Dirck Edge

Kobe Steel is more than a century old and, until recently at least, a respected, Japan-based supplier of raw materials to manufacturers in the transportation industries, including automobiles, trains and airplanes. In just the last few days, a disclosure by Kobe Steel that it has falsified certain information about the strength and durability of recently delivered aluminum and copper supplied to its customers, has now expanded to include other products, including products relating to steel used by its customers. You can find industry reports, including one originating with Bloomberg News, here and here.

Although the reports currently seem to focus on automobile manufacturers, as opposed to motorcycle manufacturers, aluminum and steel are key components in the manufacture of many motorcycles.  Furthermore, among important customers of Kobe Steel identified at this point are Honda and Suzuki. We would be surprised if other companies involved in the manufacture of motorcycles are not later identified as customers of Kobe Steel.

Although initial reports indicated that the materials subject to falsified data had only been delivered to customers relatively recently, it is now suspected that Kobe Steel may have falsified data concerning raw materials as far back as a decade ago.  Several customers stated they are actively examining the use of Kobe Steel materials in their products to determine whether the safety of said products is compromised.

Although Kobe Steel has only been conducting an internal review up to this point, it says it has engaged an outside law firm to independently examine the improper conduct, and that it is possible that the external investigation will uncover additional wrongdoing. Given the path followed by recent scandals involving Volkswagen (concerning emissions cheating) and Takata airbags, expect a wave of legal action against Kobe Steel, including class action claims that could also name automobile manufacturers, for instance, as co-defendants.

MD will keep an eye on this story as it evolves and report back. It should be noted that we are currently unaware of any direct impact on the safety of any motorcycles.

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