The number of motor vehicle recalls to date for fiscal 2000 ending March 31 in Japan reached 166 cases, or some 2.34 million units, on Thursday, surpassing the record high set when the recall system was introduced in 1969, Kyodo News reported, citing the transport ministry.

The figures include such vehicles as construction excavators, however.

The record came as recalls were issued on Thursday for 355 U.S.-made Saturn vehicles by General Motors Japan Ltd, the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry said.

The previous record was 165 cases, or some 2.57 million units, set in fiscal 1969, when recalls were issued covering vehicles from several years before the system was introduced that year.

Kyodo News reported that the ministry said that the fiscal 2000 figure includes the 20 cases that Mitsubishi Motors Corp. tried to cover up before it was discovered that it had concealed consumer complaints.

"Automakers are now quicker than ever to investigate the causes of defects," the ministry said.

The Saturn sedans, station wagons and coupes, imported between December 1999 and July 2000, have a defect in the accelerator pedal.