It now appears there may be millions of faulty Chinese tires on the highways in this country. The suspect tires have been sold in the United States and apparently are far more in number than initial estimates indicated.

Two fatal crashes in which the tires were the culprit apparently led to a recall of the tires. This recall is the latest in a string of alerts about the safety of products made in China.

As reported, Foreign Tire Sales (FTS), a Union, New Jersey tire distributor, was responsible for bringing the Chinese-made tires into the country. One of the crashes killed two Philadelphia construction workers and severely injured another.

The federal government demanded the recall of 450,000 tires made by the Chinese firm Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co. and distributed in the United States by FTS. Reportedly, there are a half-dozen or more other distributors of Zhongce tires. It is being reported that as many as five million of the tires might have been sold in the United States since 2002. The manufacturer may have sold its tires under countless brand names.

As reported, the defect was the result of a failure of the manufacturer to place adhesive strips between the tire belts. This will cause the tires to degrade and eventually separate.

The tires were sold under the names of Compass, Telluride, Westlake and YKS. FTS contacted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in May to report that it had safety concerns about the tires triggered by the crash of an ambulance in New Mexico in 2005.

Frankly, it’s real difficult to understand why it took NHTSA so long to complete an investigation and recall the tires. FTS launched its own tests of the tire as a result of the crash and complaints from customers seeking refunds because of poor quality.

The company has admitted that its own tests revealed that some tires, designed to last 40,000 miles, actually were coming apart after only 25,000 miles. The tires were made for vans and other light trucks.

It is significant that FTS has now sued Zhongce, alleging that the manufacturer is responsible for the safety risks created. The Chinese government has aggressively defended the products, attributing the complaints to competitors in the United States seeking to protect their own sales.

That will be a tough program to sell to the American public. In addition to lacking adhesive strips, the Zhongce tires were dangerous because their inner liners were too thin, permitting air to leak and damage the outer walls of the tires.

Zhongce has been asked to disclose all sales involving tires that were manufactured without the adhesive strip needed to prevent separation. I hope the tires will be taken off the market without further deaths and injuries. Incidentally, the Chinese company says it is free of fault and is cooperating with NHTSA.


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