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Wednesday August 23 10:37 PM ET
Safety Officials Press Mitsubishi

By ADAM GELLER, AP Business Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - Federal auto safety officials will ask Mitsubishi to vouch for the quality of cars it has sold in the United States, after the automaker's parent company admitted to systematic concealment of consumer complaints in Japan.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was preparing a letter on Wednesday to Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America, posing questions about the safety of the cars sold to American drivers.

``We are asking Mitsubishi, for the record, to tell us if there is any relation between what's been discussed in Japan and anything that might have bearing on autos sold in the U.S.,'' said Tim Hurd, a spokesman for the federal agency.

The NHTSA has no evidence that Mitsubishi had failed to report problems with its cars to U.S. authorities. But the agency, which is in charge of auto safety recalls, wants reassurances no such lapses have taken place, Hurd said.

The NHTSA action follows admissions from Mitsubishi Motors Corp. executives in Tokyo this week that the company hid consumer complaints from the government for more than 20 years.

The parent company announced a recall of 88,000 vehicles in Japan, and about 200,000 overseas. The recall includes 10,000 Galant sedans made in 1995 and 1996, and sold in the United States, which may have fuel tank cracks and 344 Monteros with possible brake-hose problems.

But the automaker's U.S. subsidiary said the problems in Japan have little bearing on American customers and that the company has worked closely with the highway safety agency.

``We maintain a close relationship with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and are diligent in tracking all customer complaints and product safety and quality concerns in our efforts to issue product recalls whenever those are required,'' Pierre Gagnon, the subsidiary's executive vice president, said in a written release.

A spokesman for Mitsubishi Motor Sales, Kim Custer, said the company has been in touch by telephone with the NHTSA, had already begun working to assembly written materials to reassure them and hoped to meet with federal officials soon.

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