COVERUP FALLOUT

42 prefectures won’t buy MMC vehicles

Forty-two of the 47 prefectural governments have dropped Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Mitsubishi Fuso Truck & Bus Corp. from their new vehicle procurement lists following a series of vehicle defect coverups, according to a Kyodo News survey released Saturday.

Twelve of 13 major cities have also stopped buying vehicles from the two companies, and about 60 percent of the other prefectural capitals have taken similar steps.

An increasing number of local governments have barred local Mitsubishi dealerships from bidding for their vehicle orders or have simply decided not to buy vehicles from the automakers.

Their actions will be effective for a minimum of three months and a maximum of 18 months.

The Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry has banned the companies from bidding for its orders for 18 months.

Even some of the municipalities with close links to the Mitsubishi conglomerate have reacted strongly to the coverups that have destroyed consumer confidence in Mitsubishi and increased doubts over its measures to ensure product safety.

The government of Nagasaki Prefecture, where shipbuilder Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and some other Mitsubishi companies played a leading role in developing the local economy, has decided to impose a nine-month suspension from bidding on the two carmakers.

The municipal government of Kawasaki opted not to purchase their vehicles indefinitely until the safety of their products can be confirmed. Kawasaki is the hometown of the Mitsubishi Fuso baseball team, a perennial corporate-league powerhouse.

Other municipalities mentioned such reasons as the lack of product credibility, difficulty in gaining approval from local consumers, and the inadvisability of spending taxpayers’ money on products made by companies whose acts run counter to the public interest.

Under a corporate revival plan announced recently by Mitsubishi Motors, its head-office functions will be moved from Tokyo to Kyoto for better coordination between departments in charge of strategic planning and assembly plants.

The city of Kyoto has suspended purchases of Mitsubishi vehicles, but the Kyoto Prefectural Government says it has not excluded Mitsubishi vehicles from its shopping list and is ready to buy them if their safety is confirmed.

Saitama, the hometown of the J. League’s Urawa Reds, is keeping faith with Mitsubishi Motors, the largest shareholder of the soccer club. Saitama is the only one of the 13 major cities that still includes the two Mitsubishi companies in its procurement process.

Fukushima, Gifu, Okayama and Hiroshima are among other prefectures that side with the Mitsubishi companies, while the city of Sendai has limited its ban on Mitsubishi to large vehicles and has taken no punitive steps on the group’s passenger cars and minivehicles.

The toughest action came from the Yamaguchi Prefectural Government of where a truck driver was killed in 2002 in an accident suspected to have been caused by a defective clutch system in a Mitsubishi Motors vehicle.

The Yamaguchi government has stopped using all of about 130 Mitsubishi vehicles it owns at its head office and branches.