TOKYO/FRANKFURT -- DaimlerChrysler may sue Mitsubishi Motors over quality problems at its Japanese truck and bus unit in a move that could deepen the rift between the once-loyal partners.
DaimlerChrysler said on Tuesday it was considering filing damage claims against Japan's fourth-largest auto maker in light of vehicle defects at unlisted Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corp, which has said it hid the problems for eight years.
The suit, if it goes ahead, could also deepen the financial woes of cash-strapped Mitsubishi Motors, which faces an uphill path to recovery after 37 percent-owner DaimlerChrysler suddenly pulled the plug on a financial aid package in April.
"We were notified by DaimlerChrysler that it was considering a demand for compensation...based on the agreement signed upon the sale of Fuso shares," Mitsubishi Motors said in a statement.
DaimlerChrysler, which owns 65 percent of Fuso, declined to detail the amount of damages it was considering in a possible suit.
In an effort to help Mitsubishi Motors financially and to get a stronger foothold in the Asian truck market, DaimlerChrysler paid 52 billion yen ($474 million) this spring for a bigger stake in Fuso, once Mitsubishi Motors' crown jewel, on top of $768 million it had spent initially for a 43 percent stake.
But Fuso, which Mitsubishi Motors spun off in January 2003, has been dogged by bad publicity this year after revelations that it had been hiding dangerous defects from the authorities.
Last month, it said it would recall some 170,000 trucks and buses after finding that defects had been concealed for the past eight years. Fuso's German CEO Wilfried Porth has said sales would probably suffer heavily given the loss of customer trust.
Several former Mitsubishi Motors officials have been indicted for covering up a defect that may have caused one road death.
A Japanese transport ministry official said on Tuesday that Fuso may have another 93 cases of defects that could warrant recalls.
Mitsubishi Motors, Japan's only loss-making car maker, has been forced to seek help from sister companies in the Mitsubishi group after DaimlerChrysler gave up on it.
Earlier on Tuesday, the automaker said it expected to raise 295 billion yen ($2.69 billion) from a planned issue of new shares, slightly more than a previously projected 280 billion yen, after an increase in support from Mitsubishi group firms.
The maker of Pajero sport utility vehicles said last month that it had won $4 billion in emergency rescue funds to shore up its balance sheet and fix its operations, which had been hit by a policy of giving out easy car loans in the United States.