Bowing deeply, the chief executive at scandal-plagued Japanese car maker Mitsubishi Motors Corp. apologised to shareholders on Tuesday for repeated recall cover-ups and plunging sales, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

“I sincerely apologise,” Mitsubishi Motors chief executive Yoichiro Okazaki told investors at a shareholders’ meeting at Tokyo headquarters, which, AP noted, was shown to reporters on TV monitors. “Our business remains in serious trouble. But we will do our utmost to carry out our revival plan.”

But angry investors reportedly hurled question after question about the cover-ups, demanding that executives do more to make up for wrongdoing and prevent a recurrence.

AP noted that the Tokyo-based company’s image has been battered since disclosing earlier this year that it had not kept its promise four years ago to stop hiding vehicle defects – for decades, MMC had systematically covered up defects to avoid the costs of carrying out recalls.

Former and current Mitsubishi officials have been arrested on charges of professional negligence and other offences resulting in death in two fatal accidents in 2002 involving Mitsubishi trucks in which wheel and clutch system defects are suspected, the report added.

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According to the Associated Press, police say officials failed to follow orders from authorities to report defects even after promising to stop the cover-up – Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corp. was spun off last year, but it was previously under the management of Mitsubishi Motors.

The report said that, at Tuesday’s meeting, shareholders demanded the company get to the bottom of the cover-ups – one investor demanded that Okazaki invest his fortune in Mitsubishi Motors stocks to show his commitment. Another began yelling uncontrollably at Okazaki and had to be subdued.

Okazaki reportedly promised the company will strengthen quality control and bring in outsiders to monitor corporate ethics and promote social responsibility in its workers’ ranks.

“We will carry out the plan. That’s the only way we can answer your concerns,” Hideyasu Tagaya, whose appointment as president was approved at the meeting, said, according to the Associated Press.

The report noted that Okazaki had been acting as president since April, when his predecessor Rolf Eckrodt, an executive sent in by DaimlerChrysler, resigned.

Shortly after DaimlerChrysler said it was no longer putting money into Mitsubishi Motors, the company announced another turnaround plan last month with injections of money from the Mitsubishi group of companies and other investors that will lower DaimlerChrysler’s stake from 37% to about 20%, AP added.

At the meeting, Okazaki reportedly said the funding is expected to total 546 billion yen (US$5 billion), slightly higher than the initially announced cash infusion.

The Associated Press said sales of Mitsubishi cars have plunged in recent months, and governments and other public bodies are suspending the order of Mitsubishi buses and other vehicles. Mitsubishi’s image has been badly damaged because of the repeated cover-ups. Thousands of vehicles have been recalled for dozens of defects, many of them capable of causing serious accidents.

Police reportedly are investigating recent fires and accidents involving Mitsubishi trucks that have been recalled but are still on Japanese streets.

On Monday, Mitsubishi Motors appointed Noboru Matsuda, a former prosecutor and Ministry of Justice official, to head the company’s ethics committee made up of outsiders to advise the board of directors on ethics and quality issues, AP said.

The news agency said Mitsubishi Motors has announced one revival plan after the other in recent years, promising to beef up quality control under the guidance of DaimlerChrysler, but the spate of recalls has not ended.

Mitsubishi has reported a loss for the fiscal year ended March 31 and expects to stay in the red this fiscal year but has said it is hoping to return to profitability by March 2007, the Associated Press noted.