TOKYO -- Japan's ongoing scandal over faulty final vehicle inspections stood as a symbolic backdrop to Nissan's ouster of Carlos Ghosn as chairman last week.
Ghosn's detached disinterest in the crisis as it hammered Nissan's image in the carmaker's backyard apparently fueled resentment among top brass already disenchanted with him.
While executives at headquarters scrambled in July to address the latest outbreak of botched inspections, Ghosn blithely continued his family vacation on an island in western Japan, Japan's Nikkei newspaper reported after Nissan said it would remove Ghosn as chairman for alleged financial offenses.
"He thinks he is not at all responsible. I wonder which company he represents as chairman," the business daily quoted an unidentified Nissan executive as saying about the incident.
To outsiders, Japan's uproar over inspections may seem overwrought. But as the protest over Ghosn's response shows, the scandal triggers an outsized sense of transgression here.
In some cases, workers who lacked proper certification were doing things such as testing car dome lights to see whether they properly illuminate when the doors are opened.
Others were more significant: Workers who were certified nevertheless tweaked emissions data when the equipment wasn't recalibrated between tests or when humidity levels were slightly outside the prescribed testing range. Or they fudged data on horn volume when it varied by 1 decibel. Or they stepped on the main brake when testing the parking brake, in violation of protocol.
These and many other questionable shortcuts -- on factory floors at Nissan, Subaru and other automakers -- have triggered mass outcry in Japan and the recall of 1.6 million vehicles.
The scandal barely registers overseas because the problems pertain only to vehicles sold in Japan. But the morass is stretching into its second year as a drag on Japan Inc. -- and still loomed large as automakers reported earnings this month.