The scandal engulfing Mitsubishi Motors has deepened, sending its shares to a new low after US authorities said they had requested information from the Japanese automotive group.
Mitsubishi admitted this week that it manipulated test data to overstate the fuel efficiency of 625,000 cars and there are fears that more models may be involved. Government officials raided one of its offices on Thursday.
The scandal has wiped around 40% off Mitsubishi’s market value, amounting to losses of $3.2bn over three days. The shares fell nearly 14% on Friday, following declines of 20% on Thursday, when they were suspended, and 15% on Wednesday.
An official at the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told Reuters that the regulator had asked Mitsubishi for information on vehicles sold in the US.
Japanese government officials said Mitsubishi could be responsible for reimbursing consumers and the government if investigations conclude that the vehicles were not as fuel-efficient as claimed.
Transport minister Keiichi Ishii told a news conference on Friday: “This is a serious problem that could lead to the loss of trust in our country’s auto industry.” He said he wanted Mitsubishi to examine the possibility of buying back affected cars.
Internal affairs minister Sanae Takaichi said the government would also ask the carmaker to pay for any subsidies granted to consumers if its cars are found to fail fuel economy standards, Jiji news agency reported.
Japanese media reported that Mitsubishi had submitted misleading mileage data on its i-MiEV electric car, which is also sold overseas. The previously disclosed models whose fuel economy readings Mitsubishi has admitted to manipulating are only sold in Japan – four of its mini-cars, two of which it manufactured for Nissan.
The Sankei newspaper said Mitsubishi is also suspected of using non-Japanese test methodology on its RVR, Outlander, Pajero and Minicab MiEV models.
Mitsubishi had already admitted there could be more models that violate Japanese regulations, and a spokesman said on Friday that the company was still examining those models.
Japan’s transport ministry has ordered the company to submit a full report on its test data within a week, while other Japanese carmakers have to submit fuel economy test data by 18 May.