TOKYO -- To hear auto industry insiders in Japan, the country's problems with bid rigging began to spiral in the early 2000s.
Or, more specifically, with the arrival of Carlos Ghosn, the cost-cutting CEO who parachuted into a nearly bankrupt Nissan Motor Co. and blew up the carmaker's ossified supplier network.
The keiretsu system of supplier families organized around a given automaker was the time-honored tradition here. And Ghosn was among the first to wonder aloud whether it was smarter to choose the lowest bidder than a preordained favorite.
The upheaval was dubbed by many "the Ghosn Shock."
"Mr. Ghosn ordered stricter bidding for selecting auto parts," said a government official connected to the industry. "Before that, automakers had cozy relations with keiretsu companies. They didn't need to compete so hard against each other."
Suppliers balked at the harsh new reality. It was especially tough for small companies that couldn't compete.