Mitsubishi Fuso set to repair 450,000 vehicles in relation to 47 defects

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Mitsubishi Fuso Truck & Bus Corp. said Monday that about 450,000 large vehicles will be subjected to repairs over the next four months in connection with 47 defects it uncovered in an internal investigation conducted over the past few months.

The announcement came a week after the transport ministry disclosed on June 8 that 93 new defects had been reported by Mitsubishi Fuso.

The company confirmed that 43 of the 93 defects should have prompted recalls in the past.

The remaining four defects will be covered by improvement campaigns in which automakers are also obliged to collect and repair the vehicles in order to fulfill customer safety.

The 43 defects include 12 cases in which the truck maker secretly repaired the defective vehicles between June 1995 and April 2000. Mitsubishi Fuso, which was spun off from Mitsubishi Motors Corp. in January 2003, said those 12 defects should have been recalled at the time of MMC’s earlier recall scandal in 2000.

Ten accidents resulting in injuries and 74 accidents resulting in fires and smoke emissions have been reported as a result of the 47 defects, but no deaths have been reported, according to the company.

The accidents involving injuries took place between June 1994 and February 2003, including a hand brake defect that caused a driver to suffer leg bone fractures in Hyogo Prefecture in February 2003.

Certain details pertaining to the recalls — including how many models are affected — are not clear, since the production years of the vehicles date as far back as 1983 and the company needs further confirmation, it said.

The company declined to give cost estimates for the recall campaigns, but admitted that they would have a significant business impact.

“I would like first to apologize to our customers and general public for the serious wrongdoings of our company in the past,” Mitsubishi Fuso President Wilfried Porth told a news conference in Tokyo.

“We take this issue very seriously and we are committed more than ever to continue our strict task to vigorously clean up the past.”

Mitsubishi Fuso, 65 percent of which is owned by DaimlerChrysler AG, said the latest defect coverups were uncovered by a Mitsubishi Fuso in-house investigative team set up in April.

The team went over 159 safety-related cases dating back to 1992, coming up with 47 fresh defects requiring repairs by the automaker, the company officials said.

When it was found in 2000 that MMC had concealed customer complaints for nearly 30 years and had secretly repaired certain vehicles, MMC pledged to investigate past safety-related cases in order to detect other defect coverups.

But the safety-related documents submitted to authorities by MMC were those from April 1998 and June 2000, and the company only issued four recalls at that time.

“The company’s judgment in 2000 was selective, it was incomplete and in some cases, it even obviously ignored available information on quality and safety-related measures such as in the clutch housing cases,” Porth said.

The clutch housing defects had been systematically concealed instead of the relevant vehicles being subject to recalls, resulting in a series of accidents.

In one case, a 39-year-old truck driver was killed when he lost control of his vehicle due to brake damage and smashed into a building in Yamaguchi Prefecture in October 2002.

Mitsubishi Fuso has also been under fire for delaying recalls tied to defective wheel hubs on its large vehicles since March.

In March, Mitsubishi Fuso admitted that structural flaws in wheel hubs for its large vehicles caused wheels to detach, causing a number of accidents, including one fatality. A 29-year-old woman was killed in January 2002 in Yokohama when a wheel detached from a truck and hit her. The truck maker previously blamed improper maintenance on the part of users for the accidents.