Mitsubishi Fuso Truck & Bus Corp. announced the recall Wednesday of about 75,200 large vehicles due to defective clutch housings that have caused a number of accidents, including a fatality.
The transport ministry said it suspects the company has made false reports to authorities regarding the accidents.
Mitsubishi Fuso admitted last Thursday that it covered up clutch housing defects between 1996 and 2000. Chief executive Wilfried Porth blamed the company’s past management of Mitsubishi Motors Corp. for what he described as a corporate culture of concealment.
Mitsubishi Fuso was the truck and bus division of MMC until it was spun off in January 2003.
“The coverups might be tied to the past decision by the company’s meeting not to recall the vehicles,” Hideyuki Shiozawa, Mitsubishi Fuso executive in charge of quality management, told a news conference Wednesday.
The company said Thursday that MMC convened a meeting in May 1996 to discuss whether to recall the vehicles, but the idea was rejected even though the participants were aware that the suspected defects could lead to serious accidents.
The recall covers The-Great model trucks, The Super-Great model trucks and some crane trucks. Between 50,000 and 60,000 large vehicles exported overseas will also be covered by the recall, the automaker said.
As there are not enough replacement parts, Mitsubishi Fuso said it will offer temporary repairs until improved parts become available.
The models subject to the recall have been involved in a total 21 accidents caused by defective clutch housings.
A crack in the clutch housing can lead to the detachment of the propeller shaft, breaking surrounding parts. The propeller shaft distributes power from the engine to the wheels.
A truck driver was killed in Yamaguchi Prefecture after he lost control of his vehicle and smashed into a building due to brake damage caused by a defective clutch housing.
The company estimates the recall will cost several billion yen.
Mitsubishi Fuso, 65 percent owned by DaimlerChrysler AG, said it had received 67 reports of problems with clutch housings between June 1990 and September 2003, including those that did not result in accidents.
But the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry said it received reports of only two cases that resulted in accidents.
The ministry suspects that Mitsubishi filed a false report on one of the accidents, in which a propeller shaft became detached from a large truck in Kanagawa Prefecture in October 2002. The detached part hit and damaged three cars.
MMC reported the accident to the transport ministry in December 2002, but said it was unusual and had been caused by improper maintenance by the user.
But ministry officials said the company had already received reports on 63 cases of clutch housing problems at that time.
Mitsubishi Fuso was criticized recently for its delay in issuing recalls after design flaws were found in wheel hubs for its large vehicles. The defective hubs have caused many accidents, including one in which a 29-year-old woman died after being hit by a runaway wheel in January 2002.
In March, it recalled some 112,000 vehicles to change their front-wheel hubs. In April, it recalled some 10,610 large vehicles due to defective rear-wheel hubs.
About 70,000 of the 75,200 large vehicles subject to the latest recall are covered by the wheel hub recalls, Mitsubishi Fuso officials said.
Seven former senior officials of MMC, including Takashi Usami, former vice president, were arrested earlier this month for alleged professional negligence resulting in death and injury as well as filing false reports with authorities.
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