Once again, states appear to be out in front of federal regulators when it comes to safety. Without waiting for Washington, 24 state attorneys general have issued recalls of an estimated 270,000 tires, imported from China, that may be unsafe.
The tires are among those imported by Foreign Tire Sales, of New Jersey, and manufactured by Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Company Ltd. Sold under the brand names of Compass, Westlake and YKS, the tires are designed for use on SUVs, trucks and vans.
The head of the federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) told a Senate committee last month that federal safety regulations are not adequate to deal with motor vehicle equipment importers refusing to recall defective products.
Tires made by Hangzhou Zhongce were imported to the U.S. by Foreign Tire Sales but the New Jersey company says it is unable to conduct a thorough recall because of a lack of money.
State officials said they decided to act now, without waiting for federal regulators.
We believe that some of these potentially dangerous tires were sold in Eastern Washington and encourage all Washington drivers to check their vehicles, said Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna said.
If you have any of these tires, immediately contact the dealer where you made your purchase and have them thoroughly inspected. Dont drive long distances and be careful not to overload your vehicle, he warned.
Foreign Tire Sales filed a Defect and Non-compliance Report with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on July 2, 2007, saying the tires may not meet the minimum specifications provided to the tire manufacturer.
Affected tires lack gum strips, an important part of a tire related to the prevention of thread separation. Tire treads could separate, creating a potential safety hazard on the road. At least one serious accident has been caused by such an occurrence with these tires.
The potential for harm is great for consumers who may have purchased these tires, said Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler. Consumers who believe they own the affected tires should have them inspected by their tire dealer as soon as possible and contact our office.
The tires were sold from 2002 to 2006. The states are still trying to determine whether additional potentially unsafe tires may have been distributed by other U.S.-based distributors or if other brand names were involved, McKenna said.
What To Do
Heres how to check your vehicle:
Examine the sidewall of your tires for the brand name, size, model and DOT number. Brand names included in the recall are Westlake, Compass and YKS.
Specific tire numbers and sizes affected by the recall:
• LT235/75R-15 CR861 CR857
• LT245/75R-16 CR860 CR861 CR857
• LT225/75R-16 CR 861
• LT265/75R-16 CR860 CR861 CR857
• LT235/85R-16 CR860 CR861 CR857
• LT31X10.5R-15 CR861 CR857
The letters "DOT" certify compliance with all applicable safety standards established by the Department of Transportation. Adjacent to this is a tire identification or serial number. This serial number is a code with up to 11 digits that are a combination of numbers and letters.
If the DOT number contains "FTS" as part of the number, the tire may be subject to recall. Affected tires also will contain a tire size starting with "LT," as well as a DOT number that starts with "7D" and ends in either "02," "03," "04," or "05."
Importer Faces Bankruptcy
The New Jersey importer earlier said it would be able to replace about ten percent of the tires before running out of money and declaring bankruptcy, the company's lawyer said.
Once FTS has replaced as many of the tires as it can, the company will have to declare bankruptcy, according to Lawrence Levigne, the attorney representing FTS. He said the tire importer estimated that it has enough funds to replace about 10 percent of the 450,000 tires that may be defective.
New Jersey authorities joined federal highway safety officials to demand information from the tire importing company about the tires it bought from a Chinese manufacturer and sold to U.S. distributors.
Levigne said the company would comply with the subpoena issued by the state Attorney General's Office.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ordered the recall, which includes light truck radial tires imported between 2002 and December 2005. The brands involved are Westlake, Telluride, Compass and YKS.
The tires, made by China-based Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co., have an insufficient or missing gum strip, a rubber feature that helps prevent steel belts inside the tire from separating or from damaging the rubber.
FTS alerted NHTSA to the problem in an official document filed in June. NHTSA responded by ordering a recall. Failure to recall the tires could result in fines for the importer, NHTSA reminded in a letter faxed to the company yesterday.
"At the risk of putting ourselves out of business, this company did the right thing and we reported the problem," said Levigne, who faults NHTSA for not doing more to help the company correct the problem.
Heather Hopkins, a spokeswoman for NHTSA, responded that NHTSA does not have the resources to help companies carry out recalls even if it puts the company at an extreme financial hardship.
"We don't have the mechanism to pay for a business to continue being in business," she said.
Associate Administrator for Enforcement Daniel C. Smith wrote FTS President Richard Kuskin stating that, The Safety Act does not provide for any exceptions to the notification and remedy requirements based on the financial impact on the manufacturer. A company that chooses to import motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment into this country accepts the same responsibility for compliance with the Safety Act as any other manufacturer.
Owners of tires carrying the Westlake, Compass Telluride and YKS (or a combination of these names) should check the sidewall of their tires for the DOT number. If the DOT number contains FTS as part of that number, the tire may be subject to this recall.
If the tire does not contain FTS in the DOT number it is not part of this recall.
The affected tires will also contain a tire size starting with LT. If the tire size does not show LT, it is not part of the recall. The affected tires have DOT numbers that start with 7D and end in either 02, 03 04 or 05. No other tires are involved in the recall.
The State of New Jersey issued a subpoena to FTS earlier. Assistant Attorney General Anne Milgram said New Jersey wants to coordinate with the offices of Attorneys General of other states and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
We need to know exactly how many tires were sold, the identity of the purchasers and how consumers are going to be notified that they are riding around on tires that might fall apart and cause serious injury, or, in at least one instance, cause death, Milgram said. This is a critical public safety issue that affects consumers throughout New Jersey and the United States, and we will do everything we can to protect people from harm.
The subpoena seeks information regarding the locations to which the tires were shipped, the identity of consumers who might be using them, FTS knowledge that the tires might be defective, and information about the recall.
FTS bought light truck radial tires from Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co. Ltd. of China from 2002 and 2006.
The Chinese manufacturer of the light truck tires has now denied it supplied faulty products and accused its FTS of making the claim to gain an advantage in an unrelated dispute.
"We have not found the faults cited by FTS," Hangzhou Zhongce said in a written statement. It said its tires met U.S. safety standards and FTS' specifications.
"We believe this is merely an effort by FTS to stir up a fuss due to this lawsuit," the tire manufacturer said.
States Recall Chinese Tires...