Clutch Box Defect Cover-up Scandal
Will break up text below soon.
May 21, 2004. Nobuteru Ishihara, Transport Minister of Japan, said that the incident is "so disgusting that I am speechless." Shoichi Nakagawa, minister of economy, trade and Industry, said that a letter Mitsubishi sent to was "perfunctory and business-like, and didn't include any apologies to the victims of accidents or a rehabilitation program."[Kyodo] Yomiuri reported that former chairman Takashi Usami, who was arrested earlier on suspicion of violating the Road Trucking Vehicle Law in cover up of truck hub defects, approved the cover-up of defective clutch housings.
May 24, 2004. Daily Yomiuri reported that about one year prior to their recall recall investigation committee in 1996, Mitsubishi Motors, with the permission of its top brass, tried to cover up the defect in case of an industrial waste disposal business operator by replacing all 10 of its trucks. Normally, Mitsubishi used to replace the defective parts only but in this case an exception was made. In the accident that happened in 1995, the driveshaft had fallen into the road hitting cars behind it. Nothing unusual for Mitsubishi trucks but the owner of the dispsal unit pressed with inquiries into the "manufacturing defect" and to placate the owner Mitsubishi decided to replace all the 10 truck, at costs of more than 100 million each.
May 27, 2004> Mainichi reported that a special task force set up in May 1996 to investigate the accidents caused by faulty clutches, instead of recalling vehicles ro prevent accidents, instructed sales agencies throughout Japan to secretly repair the faults wheever they were brought in for regular service and then asked them to destry the documents instructing them to perform the secret repairs. A member of that task force was later fined for breaking the Road Trucking Vehicle Law and another one was arrested in 2002 for professional negligence after Shiho Okamoto's death from a faulty hub truck.
June 1, 2004. Daily Yomiuri reported that initially MMC had considered reinforcing the clutch parts, but the maintenance workers merely tightened the screws. Screws could loosen again causing clutch housing to fail. A ministry official said that this work was far from what was required to prevent accidents.
June 7, 2004. Yomiuri Shimbun mentioned Katsuhiko Kawasoe, former president of MMC, being voluntarily interviewed regarding this scandal. He resigned in September 2000 to take responsibility for the cover-ups. In May 1996, MMC had a meeting regarding the defective aluminum clutch housing, and finally it decided to secretly repair the parts. This was a "top secret" decision in the large truck unit division. Furthermore, these repairs were halted once the cover-up scandal erupted. The defective parts were taken off the list of parts in need of emergency measures, thus avoiding inspection by the Transport Ministry. Kanagawa and Yamaguchi prefectural police are jointing investigating this case.
June 7, 2004. Yomiuri Shimbun reported that Kanagawa and Yamaguchi prefectural police will jointly pursue criminal charges against up to six former execs of MMC. Criminal charges will be brought against Katsuhiko Kawasoe, Takashi Usami and others.
June 10, 2004. Several ex-Mitsubishi executives including Katsuhiko Kawazoe have been arrested. They each face up to 5 years in jail or 500,000 yens in fine.
June 12, 2004. Yomiuri reported that MMC executives were given full details of faulty parts after the tests that revealed that brakes could fail in the event of a drive shaft failure if subjected to prolonged vibrations at high speeds. MMC Vice President Tatsuro Nakagami, head of the product quality assurance department passed the information to senior management - Takashi Usami and Yuzo Murata - who didn't issue a recall because of large number of models involved and because of fear that it would damage Mitsubishi Motors' image.
July 12, 2004. [Asahi Shimbun] Japanese tranport ministry is going to ask Mitsubishi Fuso trucks with defective clutch housing to keep their rigs off the road until emergency inspections can be completed. Out of 74,000 vehicles recalled, only 9,000 have been inspected. In June 2 of the recalled vehicles incurred major breakdowns and the ministry fearss that there could be a widespread risk to public safety unless these vehicles are inspected and repaired as soon as possible.
It seems like Mitsubishi Fuso lied again to the government by maintaining that the two major breakdown defects were discoved during inspections. Government has warned Mitsubishi Fuso and stated that "the predisposition of Mitsubishi Fuso to conceal troublesome information has not changed. This is an emergency situation, with there being a high possibility that, if things continue in this way, further major accidents will occur."
July 13, 2004. Mitsubishi Fuso Truck & Bus fired a quality-control manager today for falsifying information on the seriousness of fractured clutch housings in two of its large trucks by stating that they were partial cracks. A days ago, the transport ministry had shown its displeasure with the truck maker over this.
July 14, 2004. While Mitsubishi Fuso had said that the fired manager acted alone in compiling the misleading report, the ministry was investigating whether more people may have been involved. Five transport ministry officials raided and began inspecting a Mitsubishi Fuso factory in Kawasaki city for that purpose.
July 16, 2004. Asahi reported that the transport ministry officials who raided the Kawasaki plant asked for not only internal reports of accidents and defects, but also details from workers in the clutch housing section. It is the first time in over two years the ministry has searched a Mitsubishi plant. In June 2002, the ministry searched a Mitsubishi Motors facility over wheel hub defects.
Mitsubishi Fuso President Wilfried Porth said that the defective clutch housing part broke in seven other vehicles after recalls were announced. One occurred in Shizuoka Prefecture on a bypass road of Route 1, and one happened on Omiya bypass of Saitama.
August 4, 2004. Mitsubishi Fuso confirmed clutch housing cracks and ruptures in 14 of its large vehicles that took place between last September and May this year. In its earlier report it said that its large vehicles developed no defects during the period. (Kyodo News)
Mitsubishi Fuso and Bus Japan
Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Recall
Number Potentially Involved: 182,250
Dates of Manufacture:
Defect: Clutch box. A faulty metal part covering the clutch box can cause the drive shaft, an engine transmission mechanism to the rear wheels, to detach. This damages brake lines, leading to possible brake failure.
Other defects - parking brakes, propeller shaft - are listed towards the end.
Likely Chain of Events in Fatal Accident
May 21, 2004. Asahi Newspaper published what the police investigating this accident probably thinks happened.
- The 39-year old driver was driving on Sanyo Expressway from Kagoshima to Osaka.
- In Kumage, part of the drive shaft, which transmits the engine's power to the rear wheels, fell off the truck.
- The driver decided to take an exit at Kumage Interchange, 3.4 km from where the police later found pieces of the drive shaft, probably to investigate the matter.
- The remaining part of the drive shaft started vibrating severely and destroyed the adjacent brake line.
- There was a steep downhill slope and the driver was unable to stop.
- The truck crashed into an entrance to an underground tunnel for pedestrians after breezing through a toll gate.
Background: May 20, 2004. Back in October 2002, in Kumage (now part of Shunan), Yamaguchi prefecture, his 9-ton The-Great model truck went out of control at a bend, crossing over a divider and crashed into a building at the entrance to an underground road, and killing the 39-year old driver. Yamaguchi police strongly suspects brake failure. About 50 accidents related to faulty clutch were recorded by Mitsubishi Motors over 10 years prior to the accident, but not made public until now. Repairs were suspended in 2000 and remained so even after the fatal accident in 2002. President Wilfried Porth, in a hastily-called news conference on May 20, 2004 said that recall should have happened in 1996 but only limited modifications were made that time and owners were contacted privately, leaving the problem unsolved, even though the issue of potential accidents was raised in the 1996 meeting. He attributed this to a culture of concealment at Mitsubishi Fuso and Bus, and reportedly said that it was a "violation of law." Apparently, the management learnt of such conditions only last week from a company insider.
May 20, 2004. Daily Yomiuri reported that the police are to investigate the matter. There here are four defective parts--a clutch component on one of its trucks, the clutch housing, the drive shafts for its trucks and buses, and the brakes on its large buses. In all, the company knew about three accidents resulting in deaths and injuries and 136 parts failure reported to it, but decided not to take any action on them - until now. The clutch housing component affects about 100,000 vehicles. About 50 complaints were filed for clutch housing failure prior to the fatal accident and 20 more were filed since then.
According to Canadian Press, Wilfried Porth said that 4 defects have been identified. Hideyuki Shiozawa, head of Mitsubishi Fuso's quality control, said the defect, causes a cracked cover, resulting in a propellor shaft, which distributes power from the engine to the wheels, to fall off and sever a brake hose. There are dozens of complaints for the three other defects related to this on trucks and buses and parking brake defects in buses, according to the company.
Breakdown of defects and the vehicles affected
1. The-Great Truck - Design flaws in the clutch housing. A crack can occur resulting in brake hose damage. 85,000 out of 170,000 to be recalled.
2. Super-Great Truck - Propeller shaft can detach due to loose nuts. 8000 vehicles produced between November 1994 and September 2002. A recall was issued in 2003 but the counter-measures were insufficient. 12 accidents were reported.
3. Large sightseeing bus - Propeller shaft problem. 250 buses manufactured between October 1992 and January 2002. Six accidents were reported.
4.Large sightseeing buses - Defective parking brake problem. 4000 vehicles made manufactured between July 1983 and September 1996. 48 accidents reported. [Japan Times]