Mitsubish says there is “no reason to believe” that UK cars are affected by an emissions-rigging scandal which has wiped $1.2bn off the market value of the Japanese car giant.
Lance Bradley, managing director of Mitsubishi Motors in the UK, said: “I would like to reassure everyone that there is no evidence to suggest that UK or European models are affected.”
The manufacturer admitted today that it had falsified fuel economy test data to make emissions levels look more favourable, sending shares in the company tumbling more than 15pc.
Some 22,693 new Mitsubishi cars were sold in the UK last year, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. This represents just 0.9pc of the UK market.
Tetsuro Aikawa, president of Japan’s sixth-largest automaker by market value, bowed in apology at a news conference in Tokyo for what is the biggest scandal at Mitsubishi since a defect cover-up over a decade ago.
The problem was reportedly found after Nissan pointed out inconsistencies in data, the company said.
Mitsubishi then conducted an internal probe and found that tire pressure data was falsified to make mileage appear better than it actually was.
“The wrongdoing was intentional. It is clear the falsification was done to make the mileage look better. But why they would resort to fraud to do this is still unclear,” Mr Aikawa said.
He said that although he was unaware the irregularities were happening, “I feel responsible”.
Shares in the company closed down more than 15pc at 733 yen, the stock’s biggest one-day drop in almost 12 years.
In 2000, Mitsubishi revealed that it covered up safety records and customer complaints. Four years later it admitted to broader problems going back decades. It was Japan’s worst automotive recall scandal at the time.
The company said this morning that 625,000 mini-car models produced since mid-2013 were affected. These include 157,000 built for Mitsubishi and 468,000 manufactured for Nissan.
The four models are the Mitsubishi eK Wagon and ek Space and the Nissan Dayz and Dayz Roox.
Mitsubishi said it would stop making and selling those cars, and has set up an independent panel to investigate the issue.
However, the testing method, which is different to the one required by Japanese law, is also understood to have been used on other Mitsubishi cars manufactured for the Japanese market.
The company is also checking whether the cheating affected overseas models and said it was unable to estimate the impact of the manipulation on its business at this point.
Separately, it disclosed that it has used a method to test mileage since 2002 that is not compliant with Japanese standards.
Joe Rundle, head of trading at ETX Capital, said the revelation from Mitsubishi “calls into question whether we have a much larger industry-wide scandal on our hands”.
He said: “We’ve always thought that the VW emissions scandal would rumble on and now it looks like the dodginess is not confined to the German carmaker.”
He added: “If – and only if – US carmakers are involved too it could be a devastating blow to the industry. Emissions could be for the car sector like Libor fixing has been for the banks – a further stain on an already tarnished image.
“One person who benefits from all this is Elon Musk, whose Tesla brand is increasingly looking like a white knight.”
Mitsubishi, which sold just over one million cars last year, is the first Japanese car maker to report misconduct involving fuel economy tests since Volkswagen was discovered last year to have cheated diesel emissions tests in the United States and elsewhere.
South Korean car makers Hyundai Motor Co and affiliate Kia Motors Corp in 2014 agreed to pay $350m in penalties to the US government for overstating their vehicles’ fuel economy ratings. They also resolved claims from car owners.