Daihatsu Motor Co. received a Transport Ministry recommendation Friday to take prompt action on defective cars that should have been subject to a recall.

The automaker, based in Ikeda, Osaka Prefecture, failed to report defects in four minicar models — the Hijet, Midget II, Atrai and Hijet Deckvan — to the ministry after the firm received 15 complaints from car owners.

Under the recall system, automakers are required to notify the ministry about defective cars and take action to address the problem, such as by offering free repairs or issuing a recall.

Some 507,000 units should have been recalled, a ministry official said, noting that the automaker repaired only those vehicles owned by people who filed complaints.

In a worst-case scenario, the defective cars could emit smoke and catch fire.

The ministry conducted an on-site inspection last fall after it received an anonymous tip that the automaker had not taken proper action regarding its defective cars.

The ministry’s recommendation over the recall failure is the first since the recall system was enacted in January 1995, the official said.

The ministry also issued a written warning to Daihatsu for failing to take proper recall procedures for other types of minicars.

The automaker received 2,399 complaints from car owners about those vehicles, although their faults were less serious than the case subject to the recommendation.

Shogo Arai, director general of the ministry’s Road Transport Bureau, handed the recommendation and warnings to Iichi Shingu, president of the automaker, based on the Road Trucking Vehicle Law.

In a news conference, Shingu apologized for the failure while pledging that the firm would strengthen its quality control and prevent similar failures from recurring.

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