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Car and Driver: Mitsubishi Admits to Miscalculating Fuel-Economy Since 1991

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Mitsubishi XR-PHEV II concept

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In most ordinary automotive scandals, it takes months to years to uncover what drove executives to make poor decisions. Mitsubishi has only taken six days, and it’s just started digging.

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Last week, Mitsubishi admitted to falsifying fuel economy data on four Japanese-market kei cars, including two branded as Nissans. As of Tuesday, Mitsubishi said that starting in 1991, it had developed its own “high-speed coasting test” that spit out more optimistic numbers than the one mandated by the Japanese government. Oddly enough, among the many numbers for air- and tire-rolling resistances calculated by Mitsubishi’s test, engineers selected a “relatively low value” for one trim of those late-model cars to “give the appearance of greater fuel consumption.” This was done, Mitsubishi said, to match higher fuel-consumption targets revised during the car’s development. Consequently, Mitsubishi then calculated fuel consumption for three other trims, including one with a turbo engine and another with all-wheel drive, based on that flawed initial data.

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We’re a little confused at what’s happening, but so is Mitsubishi. The company said that in 2001, an internal test showed that there was no more than 2.3-percent deviation between Mitsubishi’s coasting test and the official coasting test and that despite an employee manual produced in 2007 that explicitly required the government test, Mitsubishi continued using its own version.

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Mitsubishi is looking into other Japanese and export models, which means its U.S. division could come under the microscope. A three-member committee of independent Japanese attorneys, including a former Tokyo city prosecutor, is leading the investigation and plans to release complete results in three months and divulge “who is responsible.” Scandal or not, that’s at least speedy by corporate standards.

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