You’ve heard of creative writing, well, welcome to creative car testing.
Mitsubishi are at it again. It’s not that long ago that the CEO demanded all letters complaining of faults should be sent up the line to him to deal with personally. When they arrived on his desk he promptly hid the lot in a cupboard – for years. By that simple device Mitsubishi was able to claim their cars had the fewest faults of all brands. Where was the evidence to prove otherwise?
A few days ago their office in in Okazaki was raided by government officials. The company immediately admitted to falsifying data. The scandal engulfing Mitsubishi Motors over admitting ‘incorrect’ emission levels intensified causing shares in the Japanese carmaker to plunge to an all-time low.
Panicked by the revelation Mitsubishi had – surprise, surprise – overstated the fuel efficiency of more than half-a-million vehicles, traders rushed to dump the stock, prompting a temporary suspension of shares. (Capitalists will swear blind that we need no regulation on business practices because it’s all there in shareholder power.)
Readers might have seen a recent television commercial in which the company’s biggest heaviest and ugliest SUV, a hybrid, was purported to return gazillions of miles per gallon even when ragging the nuts off the engine. The get-out phrase used was ‘up to 153’ miles per gallon. Some gullible people their cars assuming Mitsubishi was telling the truth.
Emphasise the positive
All car companies exaggerate the benefits of their vehicle over others. They couch the lies in general terms, and talk of ‘urban’ miles per gallon, meaning down a brae, on a sunny afternoon, free wheeling, engine switched off.
Drivers who find that the fuel efficiency in their new car doesn’t match up to the claims made by the manufacturer, now know it is not their driving to blame. A new report reveals that carmakers routinely manipulate official UN-backed miles/gallons tests, with a series of tricks including stripping the car down to weigh as little as possible, overinflating the tyres, and testing in thin air at high-altitude tracks.
The tricks of the trade are listed in a report by the Transport and Environment campaign group which suggests the official fuel consumption cited by car manufacturers is on average almost 25% lower than that achieved in reality, and in some cases 50% lower.
I’ll repeat that, we are being robbed as little as 25% fuel efficiency, and as much as 50%.
No end to car maker ingenuity
Among the 20 creative but legal ways carmakers exploit loopholes and boost official performances – as approved by government regulation – are: taping over cracks around doors and grills to minimise air resistance, using special super-lubricants, stopping the car’s battery recharging, adjusting the wheel alignment and brakes, and testing at unrealistically high temperatures and on super-slick test-tracks.
The Report concludes: “Testing and checks on production vehicles are inconsistent and inadequate, with manufacturers paying the organisations undertaking and certifying the tests.” (Put simply: you want to pay your mortgage? Add another 50 mpg to that result, pal.) The Report added that, when the tests were introduced, “no one expected carmakers to adjust the brakes, pump up the tyres, and tape up all the cracks to reduce the air and rolling resistance, practices are now commonplace, with testing facilities being paid to optimise the results of the tests.” Oh yeah, “no one expected”. Green grow the testers O.
And just as you think the ghastly truth is out in the open, I should inform readers the investigating team were given access to vehicles to test but not allowed to identify exact models in their Report. Hoo haar!
Reducing costs, increasing risk
Part of the problem lies in successive UK governments reducing the budget for their own car testing workshop, drastically, no doubt having been lobbied by car manufacturers with the lie that car makers are honest Joes, there’s no need to test claims these days beyond crash testing new models. The investigative bureau used to provide a great service to the public, the same that produces WHICH magazine published by the Consumer Association, an online periodical of tests and comparatives in electrical goods, and the like.
Anyhow, if you’re interested in the venal goings on of the Stock Exchange you’ll be shocked to learn the mass sell-off was on course to push Mitsubishi shares down 20% as trades were halted amid an overwhelming number of sell orders, threatening to wipe off one-third of the company’s value in just two days. Ever action has a reaction.
Falsify is endemic
Japan’s sixth biggest carmaker said tests were falsified on four of its mini-cars, two of which it manufactured for Nissan. The number of Nissan cars affected was 468,000, while 157,000 were sold under the Mitsubishi brand. Expect Mitsubishi to be forced to pay out millions in compensation. We are still in the middle of the emission scandal with VW paying out billions to the US government for polluting the atmosphere, but defying European owners because our legal limits are much higher. VW has set aside €6.7bn (£4.8bn) to pay for the crisis and its shares are down almost one-third since the scandal was revealed last September.
Mitsubishi, keen to restore customer confidence by pulling their legs, said the cars affected were only sold in Japan. However, it said it would extend its investigation to cover cars made for overseas markets. (That was the small print you’re not supposed to notice.)
Akira Kishimoto, analyst at JP Morgan, commented “In addition to the costs of the scandal, the secondary effects on worldwide sales could be very large.”
The wrong car for the wrong reasons
Now, I ask you, who buys a Mitsubishi or a Nissan? What prospective big cash buyer does his homework, and against all common sense, doesn’t buy a range rover, or in supercar mode, plumps for a Mitsubishi or a Nissan over all other supercar marques?
Nissan sells their supercar at over £70,000, the GT-R. Petrolheads go all damp in the pants when they see one, which is a miracle because the car is so aesthetically bland as to merge into a crowd of Ford transit vans. What’s the point? If you’ve paid thousands for boob enhancing surgery you sure as hell want people to notice the difference – correct?
When you puff out your manly chest and tell people your own and drive a supercar, and they ask which one expecting to hear Ferrari, or Lamborghini, or McLaren, you answer a Nissan. Well, tough. You’ve only yourself to blame when the questioners fall flat on the ground writhing in hysterical laughter.
Cars: can’t live without them, can’t live with them.