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Problem Plagued Mitsubishi Fuso Plans Recall of 112,000 Vehicles To Fix Wheels

TOKYO March 24, 2004; The AP reportesd that Mitsubishi Fuso said it plans to recall 112,000 trucks and other large vehicles because of a faulty wheel part that police are investigating in connection with dozens of accidents.

The recall is due to what Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corp. acknowledges is a design flaw, and involves mostly freight trucks. The Japanese truckmaker says it will replace front wheel hubs, which connect the wheel to the axle.

Mitsubishi Fuso had previously denied any error in the production and design of the vehicles and pointed to faulty maintenance, but on Wednesday admitted that its hub lacked durability and could crack, and in worst cases could cause wheels to come off.

Local media reported that Mitsubishi Motors had for decades covered up customer complaints regarding other models to escape having to recall them. Authorities are investigating those cases.

Mitsubishi officials have denied any cover-up attempts.

Under an earlier voluntary replacement scheme, the Tokyo-based company repaired some 75,000 vehicles. The planned recall comes after the company reopened an investigation into some 50 cases in which wheels came loose from heavy-duty trucks due to damaged hubs. Police are also investigating the incidents.

In one case, 29-year-old Shiho Okamoto was killed and her two sons injured in January 2002 when a wheel rolled off a Mitsubishi truck and hit them as they walked along a sidewalk in Yokohama, west of Tokyo. Investigators found the hub linking the axle to the wheel was broken.

"Among major management issues, quality control is the most important. We'll learn the lesson from the hub problem and will take necessary steps as soon as possible," the company said in a statement. "We'll take seriously the process that led to our latest recall."

The company said it will set up an investigation team that includes independent experts.

Mitsubishi Fuso, Japan's third biggest truckmaker, was spun off from Mitsubishi Motors in January 2003. It is 42 percent owned by Mitsubishi Motors, while DaimlerChrysler AG holds a 43 percent stake.