The Shanghai operation of Mitsubishi Motors Corp had a head-on collision with the local Changning District People's Court, which pronounced judgment yesterday in what is apparently Shanghai's first suit involving a quality defect in the Pajero V33, one of the controversial sport utility models of the Japanese automaker.
According to the verdict, Mitsubishi Motors Shanghai Co Ltd is required to replace the defective engine in a Pajero V33 bought by local consumer Zhang Juhong for almost 520,000 yuan (US$62,650) with a new, imported one.
In addition, the company has to pay 60,000 yuan (US$7,200) in compensation for the quality flaw in the vehicle and its dishonest handling of the complaints of the consumer.
When she filed the lawsuit in May 2001, Zhang expected a full refund after returning the vehicle to the company, as well as further compensation equal to the value of the original purchase price of the car.
With the absence of the company's legal representative, Zhou Zhirong, the defendant's lawyer, admitted that the judicial proceedings were open and fair in general, but he will await his client's decision on whether or not to launch an appeal.
The verdict came while people are still closely watching the aftermath of last year's issues concerning Mitsubishi's Pajero series of vehicles.
After detecting a dangerous brake defect on Pajero V31 and V33 models, the State Exit-Entry Inspection and Quarantine Bureau banned the import of these models in February 2001.
Though Mitsubishi later issued a nationwide recall and promised to fully compensate Chinese consumers, it came under fire again as a quality problem with its new model Pajero V73 was allegedly connected with several serious accidents around the country.
With what she called "blind faith" in the Mitsubishi brand, Zhang bought the vehicle in 1997, yet she found an abnormal sound in its engine soon after she purchased it, and she then complained to the company, which is mainly responsible for the sales and after-sales service for the East and Central China regions.
After some acrimonious haggling, the firm agreed to replace the engine free of charge at its affiliated repair shop in 1998. However, the plaintiff found out a year later that they had only replaced some defective parts, not the entire engine.
Also, the company failed to offer sufficient assistance to the plaintiff in completing registration procedures after the change, which drove Zhang, angered by Mitsubishi's behavior, to file the suit last year.
(China Daily February 5, 2002)