Crash Prompts US Distributor to Recall Hangzhou Zhongce Tyres
A US tyre importer and distributor has asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for help in recalling almost half a million Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Company produced light truck tyres and filed an $80 million claim, following a death and injury lawsuit. Hangzhou Zhongce disputed the claims. “Our tyres are qualified to be sold in the US,”’ Xu Youming, a manager in charge of legal affairs told Bloomberg, adding: “We’ve been exporting tyres for more than 10 years. We know what we are producing and selling.”
Foreign Tire Sales (FTS) appealed to NHTSA for aid in recalling an estimated 450,000 light truck tyres sold under the Westlake, Telluride, Compass and YKS brand names after the company allegedly learned that the manufacturer had left a critical component out of the tyre.
Affected tyres include some Westlake, Telluride, Compass and YKS-branded light truck products. Affected sizes include: LT235/75R-15, LT225/75R-16, LT235/85R-16, LT245/75R-16, LT265/75R-16, LT3X10.5-15.
According to an FTS report to NHTSA, Hangzhou has refused to give the Tire Identification Number for which tyres were built with an allegedly insufficient gum strip. And as a result FTS says there could potentially be even more defective tyres on the market than first thought.
“There are nearly half a million of these substandard tyres out there, unbeknownst to consumers. The Hangzhou Rubber Company deliberately and secretly removed a safety feature from these tyres and two young men died as a direct result. This was a tragedy that didn’t have to happen, but hopefully we can prevent future fatal crashes,” said Jeffrey B. Killino, an attorney with Woloshin & Killino, which represents the families of the deceased and injured.
According to a report FTS filed with NHTSA, the company suspected that something was wrong with the tyres in October 2005, when it noticed a sharp increase in the number of warranty adjustments on the tyres, but Hangzhou officials assured them that the tyres were sound. The company continued its suspicions in May 2006, after an ambulance crash in New Mexico prompted FTS to examine the blown tyre that caused the rollover. According to the company, the Chinese manufacturer had failed to include the 0.6 mm gum strip between the belts to keep them from separating. FTS stopped buying tyres from Hangzhou in June 2006, the report said.
According to Foreign Tire Sales’ report to NHTSA, it contracted the Hangzhou Rubber Company in 2000 to design and manufacture light truck tyres that FTS, of Union, New Jersey, would import and sell.
In March 2006 Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. voluntarily recalled about 288,000 replacement tyres in three separate actions because of problems found in passenger and light truck tyres. These included Dean, Mastercraft, Starfire and Trendsetter tyres made in China by Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co. Ltd. between 21 November 2004, and 30 July 2005, under an off-take manufacturing agreement. In this case the tyres were said to contain an “unauthorised material”’ in the upper sidewall that could create small voids, which could result in air leaks.
GITI Tire (China) Investment Company Ltd is the only Chinese tyre manufacturer to exceed Hangzhou Zhongce in terms of sales last year, according to the China Rubber Industry Association. Hangzhou Zhongce, founded in 1958, plans to boost profit to 650 million yuan ($85 million) on sales of 18 billion yuan by 2010, according to its website.