After a concerted consumer campaign, Mitsubishi New Zealand has broken ranks with the rest of the country's new car industry and announced that it will support all Mitsubishi vehicles involved in safety recalls, regardless of who imported them.

This is a big issue in New Zealand, where over half the vehicle fleet is shipped in second-hand from Japan by companies or individuals independent of the manufacturer.

The new car industry's stance so far has been to ignore safety recalls of vehicles that were not imported by the manufacturers' official agents. Therefore, there are hundreds of unresolved safety recalls of second hand Japanese imported vehicles on New Zealand roads, many of them completely unknown to either the government or the owners of the vehicles.

Incredible though it may seem, until a couple of weeks ago the government body in charge of road safety, the Land Transport Safety Authority (LTSA), was taking the side of the car companies, saying that they had only to repair vehicles they actually sold. This stance effectively exempted the car companies from taking responsibility for the manufacturing faults of their parent companies. It also exempted them from taking responsibility for the vast majority of the New Zealand vehicle fleet.

LTSA was advising consumers to go back to the dealer that sold them the vehicle (assuming the dealer was still in business).

Until a week ago, Mitsubishi New Zealand was recalling only vehicles that it sold, offering some parts, but no labour, on second hand Japanese imports that had been involved in safety recalls overseas.

The recent Mitsubishi turnaround has helped restore its crumbling image in the country, but put the rest of the industry in a difficult position. The public now expects all car companies to support all vehicles bearing their brand, so makers like Nissan, which has also previously refused to fix vehicles that it did not import, are in for a rough ride.

Clive Matthew-Wilson

Editor's notes: Matthew-Wilson publishes the annual Dog & Lemon Guide, a consumer guide to all car models - new or used - imported into New Zealand and Australia. His company is now in the process of translating the Japanese Transport Ministry recalls database into English to help local owners of second hand Japanese cars.

Mitsubishi Motors New Zealand recently informed the LTSA of Japanese market recalls to replace front hubs on Fuso trucks, buses and crane-carriers manufactured between 1983 and 1996. Of the 843 in New Zealand, 400 will also require a clutch bell housing rectification, and 47 will require a replacement rear hub.

The LTSA was also told of of a Japanese market recall of 1996/97 Galant VR4 automatics with the active stability control option, 343 of these are registered in New Zealand.