Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corporation (MMPC), once again, is beset by unfounded allegations that its most popular model, the Montero Sports, seem to have a mind of its own and supposedly leaps into action without any human intervention. The issue of “sudden unintended acceleration” (SUA) on the Montero Sport was resolved as early as 2011 when a team of car designers and engineers took a Montero Sport that was supposedly involved in an SUA incident, putting it through stringent tests while trying to replicate the occurrence but to no avail—with the engineers finally attributing the incidents to pedal misapplication or to put it simply, human error.
A fortnight ago, MMPC announced that they were launching the all-new Montero Sport on January 2016, while offering a hefty discount for everyone who will place an order before its official release. Car enthusiasts went abuzz with Mitsubishi’s announcement as the all-new model, aside from getting a dynamic body design, had loads of advance features. But from out of the blue, news about a SUA incident that involved another Montero Sport suddenly resurfaced – dousing rain over Mitsubishi’s proverbial parade.
Although having inadequate details and the lack of a professional and extensive investigation, the news report still came out – insinuating that the model was defective, and even called it a “lemon.”
MMPC immediately came out with a statement assuring the public that the Montero Sport is neither defective nor unsafe to use.
Mitsubishi’s statement read: “The MMPC and its principal Mitsubishi Motors Corporation of Japan [MMC], has conducted extensive testing and investigation of all submitted claims of unintended acceleration, using current and available technology to determine the cause of said unintended acceleration but has not found any defects or cause directly linked to the vehicles involved.
“MMC technical experts went to MMPC to conduct a series of tests on the units with this complaint when it was first observed in 2011.
“That same year, in the absence of an automotive third party testing facility in the Philippines, MMPC sent a Montero Sport unit with sudden unintended acceleration complaint to MMC’s proving ground in Okazaki, Japan, to be inspected and tested. In all these tests, MMC found no defect or malfunction that would result in the alleged sudden unintended acceleration.
“MMC and MMPC have concluded that the performance and behavior of the Montero Sport is completely dependent on driver action and reaction, and that the vehicle will only move upon driver intervention.”
A similar spate of incidents happened in the US back in 2009, which involved a number Toyota and Lexus models. The US government, being strict as it is, immediately ordered a thorough investigation on the reported SUA incidents. Experts from the National Highway Traffic Safety Agency as well as from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration performed stringent tests on the vehicles. Both groups of experts found nothing wrong with the accelerator, mechanical and electrical systems, leading them to conclude SUAs were generally from pedal misapplication and floormats pushing on the accelerator pedals. And just like in the US, the occurrence of SUAs in the Philippines happen mostly to older drivers.
MMPC Manager for Advertising and Promotions Arlan Reyes disclosed that all Montero Sports built since 2008 are assembled at the Laem Chabang plant in Thailand. Since its introduction, over 300,000 units have been built and exported to 90 countries all over the world including Australia, Southeast Asian nations, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Russia. Among the 90 countries it is exported to, the Montero Sport is most popular in the Philippines with unit sales breaching 80,000 units. However, out of all the countries where the Montero Sport is sold, it is only in the Philippines where reports of SUAs have been recorded.
New safety features
To once and for all address the reported occurrence of SUAs, Mitsubishi engineers fitted the soon-to-be-released all-new Montero Sport with two active safety features namely: Ultrasonic Misacceleration Mitigation System (UMS); and Forward Collision Mitigation system (FCM). The UMS, while stationary or at speeds of up to 10 kilometers per hour, uses ultrasonic sensors to detect vehicle obstructions and regulates engine power if the driver depresses the accelerator hard by mistake. Meanwhile, the FCM is a radar-based autonomous emergency braking system. The radar is situated behind the front grille and is used to detect objects up to around 200 meters ahead that might present a risk of collision. The system operates up to a maximum speed of 180 kph. When the risk of collision is low, FCM issues a visual and audible warning to alert the driver to the threat. At the same time, the brakes are pre-filled and brake assist is activated, which boosts the braking pressure should the driver respond to the warning and apply the brakes. If the driver does not respond and the risk of collision increases, the system continues to warn the driver but also autonomously applies moderate braking. If the risk of collision escalates, FCM autonomously applies a high brake pressure to try to avoid the accident or to reduce its severity.
Meanwhile, Reyes assured their customers that MMPC is committed to consumer safety and requests owners of Montero Sport to contact Mitsubishi Customer Care Center at telephone number (+632) 250-8888, Monday to Friday. Owners are also advised to visit any Mitsubishi service center nationwide for a free check-up.