YOKOHAMA – Dealers of Mitsubishi Motors Corp. buses discovered abrasions in the wheel hubs of some buses in 2002 and offered to replace the hubs for free, sources said Thursday.
Yet at that time, MMC went on record as saying the abrasion was unlikely to occur in the hubs of buses.
MMC excluded buses from the inspections and free replacements it conducted mainly on trucks in January 2002 following a fatal accident that month in Yokohama caused by a wheel that detached from a Mitsubishi truck. The accident killed a woman and injured her two sons.
MMC spun off its truck and bus operations into Mitsubishi Fuso Truck & Bus Corp. in January 2003.
MMC had told the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry that hub abrasion was unlikely on buses because the vehicles do not run at high speeds, placing little burden on the hubs.
Mitsubishi Fuso, under fire for failing to promptly own up to the defect and recall the hubs, recalled 112,000 large vehicles, including buses, on Wednesday.
MMC and DaimlerChrysler AG are the main shareholders of Mitsubishi Fuso.
“The inspections were conducted under the instruction of MMC headquarters in light of the Yokohama accident,” said one of the dealers who offered replacements. “We reported to headquarters about the existence of hubs where the level of abrasion exceeded the standard limit.”
But a Mitsubishi Fuso representative said, “We were not aware that there had been abrasion exceeding the standards on local buses.”
In February and March 2002, the transport bureau in Sendai inspected about 100 Mitsubishi buses used on its local routes, in response to the accident in Yokohama a month earlier, the sources said. The wheel hubs of 23 buses were replaced due to abrasion that exceeded the standard limit of 0.8 mm.
Around the same time, similar abrasions were found on several local buses used by private bus companies in the cities of Nagano and Hakodate, Hokkaido, the sources said. Those hubs were also replaced.
“It’s the same component (as is used in the trucks), I wonder why” buses were excluded from the inspections, a representative of a bus operator in Hakodate said.
President says sorry
The president of Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corp. on Thursday visited the Yokohama grave of a 29-year-old woman who was killed in an accident caused by a Mitsubishi Motors Corp. truck in Yokohama’s Asahi Ward in 2002.
Wilfried Porth laid flowers at the grave of Shiho Okamoto to apologize for the January 2002 accident. It was the first time anyone from MMC, which spun off its truck and bus division as Mitsubishi Fuso, offered a direct apology to the victim’s family.
The automaker admitted Wednesday that there was a defect in the wheel hubs of its large vehicles and announced a recall.