Feds Order Importer To Recall Chinese-Made Tires
June 28, 2007
Federal safety officials have ordered a tire importer to recall as many as 450,000 tires that it purchased from a Chinese manufacturer and sold to distributors in the United States.
Foreign Tire Sales Inc., of Union, said that an unknown number of the light truck radials it imported since 2002 from Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co. of Hangzhou, China, could suffer tread separation. This predicament has resulted to the nation's biggest tire recall in 2000. The nation's largest recall involved 14.7 million Firestone tires, said Sean Kane, the president of Safety Research & Strategies, a consumer group.
An unknown number of the tires sold were made without a safety feature, called a gum strip, which helps bind the belts of a tire to each other, the company said in a filing to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Heather Hopkins, a spokeswoman for NHTSA, said that its enforcement officials spoke to FTS on Monday to "let them know we want a full tire recall to take place." He added, “It is FTS' responsibility to do this. FTS failed to add a "remedy" in its June 11 filing, which is essentially a description of how a company will notify customers and provide proper consumer compensation.”
Lawrence N. Lavigne, an FTS attorney, said that the tires appear to meet federal standards but could still pose a risk to motorists. "FTS, at great expense, investigated this," Lavigne said. “The company, which has about a half-dozen employees, doesn't have the money to pay for a recall. FTS does not have a warehouse. It has tires shipped directly to distributors, who in turn send them to retail outlets.”
FTS said that it believes other importers also sold such tires made by Hangzhou Zhongce. The Chinese company has failed to provide information that would allow FTS to determine exactly how many tires, and which batches, have the problem, Lavigne added.
According to the filing, the Hangzhou tires in controversy were sold under at least four brand names that include Westlake, Compass, Telluride and YKS. Tire sizes include the LT235/75R-15; LT225/75R-16; LT235/85R-16; LT245/75R-16; LT265/75R-16; and LT3X10.5-15.
On May 31, FTS sued Hangzhou in U.S. District Court in Newark, charging that its tests found that the tires may fail earlier than those originally provided by Hangzhou, and that a recall would put tire retailer out of business. The suit seeks undetermined monetary damages and an injunction that would prevent Hangzhou products from being imported.
A Hangzhou Zhongce spokesman said that he could not immediately comment on the matter. A Hangzhou official said, "We are aware of this matter, and we are now in the process of responding to the lawsuit. Production and sales at our company remain normal."
FTS said that it became concerned about Hangzhou tires in October 2005 amid an increase in warranty claims and began talks with the Chinese company, and then commissioned its own tests. On May 4, the company was sued in Philadelphia by the families of two men killed when a van they were riding in collided in 2006. Also suing are the driver and passenger in the van, which the complaint allege had Hangzhou tires.
In its filing, FTS said that it sold Hangzhou tires to these distributors: Tireco, in Compton, Calif.; Strategic Import Supply, in Wayzata, Minn.; Omni United USA Inc., in Jacksonville, Fla.; Orteck International Inc., in Gaithersburg, Md.; K&D Tire Wholesalers LLC, in Carlsbad, Calif.; and Robinson Tire, in Laurel, Miss.
This situation calls for a meticulous eye for quality. Every customer should prioritize quality over anything else. Sticking to reliable auto parts and accessories like the Extang tonneau cover could bar some accidents and lessen road fatalities.
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