Some 2.59 million cars were subject to recall in fiscal 1997, the highest figure since the recall system was introduced in 1969, Transport Ministry officials announced Monday.

The large number was attributed partly to a case last fall involving Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., in which the ministry discovered defects in 1.47 million vehicles produced by the Tokyo-based automaker between 1988 and 1996.

Over the past 29 years, 26.13 million units of cars have been subject to recall, with domestic vehicles accounting for 94 percent of the total, the officials said.

The number of cars subject to recall has been on the rise in recent years due to an increase in mutual supply of auto parts among automakers under the so-called original equipment manufacturer contracts, as well as the use of the same auto parts for different types of cars as a way to cut back on manufacturing costs, the officials said.

In its analysis covering the past five years, the ministry said that 55 percent of defects were related to vehicle design, while the remaining 45 percent were caused in the manufacturing process.

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