Chief executive of Mitsubishi Motors, Takashi Sonobe, has apologised to customers

Water penetrating lateral lower steering arm ball joints, possibly causing corrosion and accelerating wear, is the reason Japan's Mitsubishi Motors is recalling more than 1.5 million Galant sedans, five-door hatchbacks and Chrysler Group derivative models around the world.

As well as a whole generation of Galant models, the recall affects approximately 394,000 Chrysler, Dodge and Eagle vehicles assembled at the Mitsubishi/Chrysler joint venture plant in North America that also builds North America's Galants.

Mitsubishi is also recalling a number of Japanese market-specification models for checks on turbocharger turbine blades, automatic transmission oil coolers, airbag systems and driveshafts.

Because some of these Japanese models may have been exported unofficially to other right-hand drive markets such as the UK and New Zealand, Mitsubishi is widening the recall programmes beyond Japan with help from its distributors in export markets.

The models with possible steering ball joint problems are four-door Mitsubishi Galant sedans and five-door hatchbacks (called coupes in some European markets) built between 1993 and 1996, the Chrysler Eclipse built from 1996 onwards, plus the 1995 to 2000 model year Chrysler Sebring; the 1995 to 2000 model year Dodge Avenger and the 1995 to 1998 model year Eagle Talon.

Most of the Galants were built in large volumes in either Japan or the USA but smaller numbers were also assembled by Mitsubishi CKD operations in the Far East and New Zealand. The Chrysler, Dodge and Eagle models were built only in America.

Mitsubishi UK spokesman David Miles said that, in most European countries, where cars are regularly serviced and older vehicles are subject to an annual MoT test, no cases of excessive steering joint wear have been found.

"Two cases have been found in Japan, and in the USA, where there is no annual MoT-type test, there have been 23 cases reported," he said.

Mitsubishi and Chrysler distributors in each affected market will write to registered owners, asking them to take their cars to dealers for free checks

Any car found to have excessive steering joint wear due to water penetration will have the units changed while those not changed will be sealed with anti-corrosion material, Miles added, noting that Mitsubishi UK expected to replace about 10 percent of the suspect joints.

In an attempt to trace owners of unofficially-imported 'grey market' vehicles, the independent UK importer is also asking owners of the Chrysler group models and certain full-size Japanese-specification Pajero, Pajero Mini Junior, the K-class Pajero Mini and the K-class Minica Toppo to contact the company via a helpline or its website.

Details of the vehicle, its age and model VIN will be sent to Japan or the USA to see if it is included in one of several recall programmes currently under way, Miles said.

In total, 956,000 Mitsubishi/Chrysler vehicles are involved in the USA, 413,000 in Japan and 83,000 in Europe while 72,000 more were originally shipped to 'general export' markets.