In a stunning admission, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. says it hid customer complaints about tens of thousands of vehicles since 1977 and will expand an earlier announced recall to conduct necessary repairs. The acknowledgement comes just a month after the automaker's top executive denied allegations that the company had covered up problems with faulty fuel tanks, clutches and brakes.

The No. 4 automaker says it has added an additional 88,000 vehicles in Japan and 200,000 in Europe, North America and other countries to the 700,000 vehicles it had previously recalled at home. The recalls are expected to cost Mitsubishi about $69 million, mostly on vehicles sold in Japan.

Last month brought the revelation that half of customer complaints to Mitsubishi were not being reported to Japan's Transport Ministry. Employees apparently marked such complaints with the letter ‘H’ — the first letter of the Japanese word for “secret” or “defer”. In documents submitted to the Japanese government, Mitsubishi says the practice was done with the full knowledge of workers, managers and even one board member.

Mitsubishi officials in Japan have said the recall involving U.S.-exported vehicles covers the Montero, Galant and Mirage. But the automaker's U.S. division claims the recall only affects some 10,000 '95-'96 Galants for possible fuel-tank cracks and '95-'97 Mirages for possible failures of crankshaft bolts.