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Mitsubishi has lied about fuel economy stats for three years

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Toru Hanai/REUTERS

(Read caption) Mitsubishi Motors Corp's showroom is pictured at its headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, April 21, 2016.

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Another automaker has confessed to deceiving consumers and regulators: Mitsubishi says that, for the past three years, it fudged fuel economy stats on some 620,000 new cars.

At the moment, it's believed that all the affected vehicles are minicars that were sold in the Japanese market. Mitsubishi admits that during tests, it reduced air and tire resistance to generate fuel economy figures for those vehicles that were between five and ten percent higher than they ought to have been. The company also admitted that the testing practices it has used since 2002 don't comply with Japanese standards.

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Complicating matters is the fact that most of the affected vehicles--468,000 of them--were supplied to Nissan through a partnership agreement. In fact, Nissan was responsible for discovering the discrepancies by conducting its own tests on the DayZ minicar (a concept version of which is shown above). Nissan has suspended sales of affected models until further notice.

Mitsubishi is conducting an internal investigation into the matter to determine which employees were directly responsible for the deceptive practices. However, company president Tetsuro Aikawa had made it clear that the misstatement of figures was most definitely intentional. The investigation may also reveal whether cars sold outside Japan are affected.

This is the latest in a long series of stories involving automakers deceiving shoppers and government agencies. While this particular item bears some resemblance to the ongoing Volkswagen Dieselgate scandal, it's perhaps more akin to the fuel economy controversies that shook Hyundai, Kia, and Ford a few years ago. 

Not surprisingly, Mitsubishi's stock price took a massive fall of 15 percent after the news became public. That's the biggest drop it's seen in Japan in over a decade.