Mitsubishi to resume sales of scandal-hit cars

PHOTO: Reuters

TOKYO - Mitsubishi Motors said Tuesday it would resume selling four car models at the centre of a fuel-cheating scandal that hammered its reputation and slammed the brakes on sales.

The announcement comes about two months after the company admitted it had been falsifying mileage tests for years, manipulating data to make cars seem more efficient than they were.

On Tuesday, Japan's transport ministry said the four affected models - all minicars sold in Japan - were on average 11 percent less efficient than they claimed.

Mitsubishi stopped selling the cars voluntarily in the wake of the scandal.

"The group is planning to restart production in July," a company spokeswoman said.

Mini-cars, or kei-cars, are small vehicles with 660cc gasoline engines that are hugely popular in the Japanese market, although they have found little success abroad.

Two of the models were made for rival Nissan, which first uncovered problems with the fuel economy data. Mitsubishi has said the company had no part in the cheating.

Nissan last month threw a lifeline to Mitsubishi as it announced plans to buy a one-third stake in the crisis-hit automaker for US$2.2 billion (S$2.95 billion), forging an alliance that will challenge some of the world's biggest auto groups.

Last week, Mitsubishi warned it would post a US$480 million special loss for the current fiscal year to pay compensation to customers for the mileage cheating that affected numerous models and had been going on for about quarter of a century.

Local media said the firm was on track to post its first fiscal year net loss in eight years.

Since the scandal emerged, Mitsubishi's sales in Japan have slumped and the company has said its president would resign.