Westlake responds to ETRMA report with re-tests of its own
Since ETRMA made its research public, most of the named tyre manufacturers have remained silent, however representatives of the largest Chinese-based tyre manufacturer named by the survey responded by writing to ETRMA asking for more information about the testing methodology. Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber, which is responsible for manufacturing the Westlake brand, is asking for access to the tested tyres for tracing purposes, re-testing the tyres at an independent test centre in the UK and has subsequently taken legal action in Germany.
Speaking at a press conference in London on 23 March, technical consultants working on behalf of Hangzhou Zhongce-owned brand Westlake explained that they have hired ETRMA-accredited test centre Rubber Consultants (formerly known as TARRC) in a bid to demonstrate compliance with Reach legislation. Hertford-based Rubber Consultants announced that it had been acknowledged by the European Tyre and Rubber Manufacturers' Association (ETRMA) as a certified independent testing body on 22 March. One of the first jobs Rubber Consultants carried out for the ETRMA in this capacity was to independently verify the initial findings of the association’s tests into compliance of the Reach regulation regarding PAH oils.
In response to being publically named as responsible for producing non-compliant tyres, Westlake managers explained that the tyres in question must have been brought into the region without the knowledge of company’s European import partner Eskay Tyres and the company’s distribution customers. Westlake representatives said the tyres in question were not sourced directly through the firm’s key European partners, but were rather the result of grey imports not intended for the EU ending up in the European market, adding that any manufacturer producing non-compliant tyres for non-EU markets could theoretically also be found to be liable.
The firm also questioned the testing methodologies used by the various centres responsible for the analysing the tyres in question. Reporting that the tyres were tested based on a number of different calculations in different laboratories, the company suggested that the variation in results was greater than the legally permissible threshold itself. This was said to be due to varying numbers of samples taken per tyre and different methods of calculation. The variation in test results was said to have been so great that a single tyre could potentially both pass and fail depending on where and how it was tested. The ETRMA contests this, pointing out that all tests were conducted according to ISO 21461.
Westlake’s managers committed to publishing the results of the independent tests they have commissioned, contacting ETRMA directly with compliance certificates and (although it is relatively uncommon in Chinese culture) the company is understood to be considering legal action. As we have seen, a case is already pending in Germany.