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October 25, 2004

JAPAN: Mitsubishi uses new car launch to atone for past defects and cover-up

Scandal-plagued Mitsubishi Motors Corp. spent more time apologising for defect cover-ups and promising better quality at a media event to unveil a new model on Monday, the first vehicle launch under new management.

By bcusack

Scandal-plagued Mitsubishi Motors Corp. spent more time apologising for defect cover-ups and promising better quality at a media event to unveil a new model on Monday, the first vehicle launch under new management.

The Associated Press (AP) said that, for the last several months, the Japanese automaker has announced more than 40 recalls after carrying out an investigation into the company’s systematic recall cover-up scam that extended back as far as 25 years.

But, with the introduction of the Colt Plus, Mitsubishi officials reportedly said they hoped to put the scandal behind them.

“We have been bracing the cold wind, and we could barely keep standing, but the Colt Plus is our first step forward,” Hideyasu Tagaya, who became president in June to lead a turnaround, told AP.

What is usually a celebratory gala event for other automakers in this nation included an unusual, lengthy explanation about how the new Colt Plus had gone through strict monitoring for quality problems, the report said.

At model unveilings for Toyota, Honda and other Japanese automakers, the new car is paraded under flashy lights, sometimes with fashion models and loud film footage, while executives boast about its sleek design and innovative technology.

In contrast, the Associated Press said, Tagaya bowed deeply at the automaker’s Tokyo headquarters during his presentation to apologise for the scandal and acknowledged the launch of the new Colt variant had to be delayed for a month to take care of the recall problems first.

Tagaya told the news agency the overall vehicle sales drop in Japan was not as bad as the company had expected, at slightly better than half of last year’s sales in recent months.

He said the company will stick to its Japan sales target of 220,000 vehicles for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2005, down 39% from the previous year.

Mitsubishi Motors is planning to sell 4,000 of the Colt models a month in Japan, AP added.

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