Ex-Mitsubishi chief arrested for truck defect-related accident

TOKYO, (June 10, 2004) — Japanese police have arrested the former president of Mitsubishi Motors Corp. (MMC) and five executives in relation to an accident that killed the driver of a Mitsubishi truck two years ago.

Katsuhiko Kawasoe, 67, who headed MMC until late 2000, has been arrested for allegedly hiding safety records and vehicle defects from authorities.

Police believe a fatal accident could have been avoided had the vehicle maker issued an open recall for defects in the design and production of the clutch housing top executives knew about. Instead of issuing a recall, MMC decided to conduct secret repairs, police allege.

In the accident, the driver lost control of the truck and crashed into a wall when the propeller shafts came off due to the faulty clutch housing.

The truck was made by the division now named Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corp., which MMC spun off in January 2003. Mitsubishi Fuso — which sells light and medium duty trucks in the U.S. as well — is now 65 per cent owned by DaimlerChrysler AG, parent company of North American truck maker Freightliner LLC.

Fuso issued a recall last month of about 170,000 heavy-duty trucks that could have a similar defect, admitting that it had broken the law by concealing the problem for eight years.

Last month, several former MMC executives, including one-time vice president, were indicted for violating road and trucking laws in a separate defect case in which a woman died in Japan when she was hit by a wheel that came loose from a Mitsubishi Fuso truck in 2002.

As if things weren’t going bad enough for the Japanese vehicle maker,, DaimlerChrysler, which owns 37 per cent of MMC as well, said this week it might demand compensation from its partner for the fallout at Fuso.

If found guilty, the suspects face up to five years in prison or a maximum fine of US $4,530.

— From Reuters

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