Tire Recalls For Tread Separation Still Plague Automotive Sector

Firestone had to undertake a massive tire recall back in 2000 involving tires made for SUVs. Out of some 14 million sold, the approximately 6.5 million still on the road were recalled.

The story, highlighted by numerous rollover deaths, remained in the news for months, and had a severe impact on the manufacturer. Among other things, angry consumers often were told that replacement tires were not in stock. The recall did not go smoothly. Congressional investigations followed, and new tire safety legislation was enacted.

Reminiscent of those days are two recent tire recalls involving the same defect that prompted the 2000 recall, namely tread separation and high failure rates, risking dangerous blowouts. The danger is exacerbated in hot summer months.

Now, as if there are not enough woes with recalls of Chinese products, you can to the list of tire recalls some 450,000 tires imported from China. This recall is especially troublesome as will become evident from the story.

The current problem arises out of instances of tread separation of truck tires sold to U.S. distributors. The tires are light truck radials imported from the Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co. located in Hangzhou, China. The problem is compounded by the fact that the recall does not involve a manufacturer that has a large U.S presence like Firestone.

In fact, the importer is a small New Jersey company with only six employees which lacks the funds to implement a recall. It doesn’t even have a warehouse. Apparently the tires are drop shipped from the manufacturer directly to U.S. distributors. The Chinese company is not being cooperative according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). There allegedly have been two rollover deaths attributable to the tires.

The NHTSA has received some criticism based on indications that it was informed of the problem as early as 2005 and took no action.

Another recall just occurred (in 2007) involving the Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. Again, the hazard is tread separation dangers with about 92,000 light truck tires. Cooper denies that there is any defect, but is cooperating in doing a recall. Cooper had previously imported tires from the Hangzhou manufacturer, but ceased in 2005. The tires recalled in 2007 were made in the U.S. Cooper is the second largest U.S. tire manufacturer.

While it’s comforting to know the these defects are being identified, it seems that from a consumer perspective, the massive recall in 2000, coupled with subsequent federal legislation, ought to have eliminated tread separation problems. Evidently this is not the case. Obviously, consumers should not be complacent about tire safety concerns which continue to plague the tire industry in the form of tread separation dangers.