Japan government warns Mitsubishi Motors over recall delays

Japan's transport ministry told Mitsubishi Motors Corp <7211.T> on Tuesday that it must conduct vehicle recalls more quickly after discovering multiple problems in past cases, on the same day that the carmaker filed for another recall.

The ministry, which investigated the automaker in December, concluded that the carmaker delayed for two years seeking the cause of an oil-leak problem that led to a series of four recalls between 2010 and 2012 of 1.76 million vehicles, including the Minica and Minicab.

Mitsubishi Motors has been embroiled in a number of recall-related scandals, most notably in 2000 when an insider's tip revealed that it had been hiding customer complaints for over two decades.

"It became clear that Mitsubishi had problems in each of the steps related to vehicle recalls," Takahiro Ikari, an official at the transport ministry, told a Mitsubishi Motors executive.

"The company should come up with plans for improvement, implement them and report them to the ministry."

The ministry found seven new problems related to the 2010-2012 recalls, which included not responding quickly to problems reported by dealerships and inappropriate explanations given to the ministry, though none of them were illegal, an official said.

Mitsubishi separately said on Tuesday it would recall 3,839 Outlander SUV plug-in hybrids sold in Japan due to a problem in the software that controls the front and rear drive motors, as well as potential problems in the vehicle's generator and front drive motor.

Tuesday's recall comes just weeks after Mitsubishi stopped production and shipments of the plug-in hybrids in late March for a separate problem due to overheating of a lithium-ion battery.

No injuries or accidents have been reported from the problem, spokeswoman Namie Koketsu said. She declined to disclose costs related to the recall, which involved most of the vehicles that Mitsubishi has sold since the plug-in hybrid went on sale in January.

The automaker has seen its sales and reputation dented after multiple recall-related scandals.

Mitsubishi Motors is set to announce its fourth quarter earnings results on Thursday.

(Reporting by Yoko Kubota; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)