NHTSA to tire importers: 'Know your suppliers'

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If there's one lesson to be learned from this year's Chinese tire recall, it's this, says Daniel Smith, associate administrator for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA): know your tire suppliers and know your obligations in the event of a problem with their products.

"You need to know what's going on with your source and you need to know what your obligations are should a problem develop," Smith announced during a recent meeting of the Tire & Wheel Council.

Union, N.J.-based importer Foreign Tire Sales Inc.'s (FTS) recall of allegedly defective light truck tires built by Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co. Ltd. this past fall "was quite a learning experience for everyone." (The recall ended on Oct. 25.)

Under federal law, United States-based importers are considered to be manufacturers, said Smith, and have a duty to conduct a safety recall if they or NHTSA determine a product they sell is defective or non-compliant.

"The problem is we only have jurisdiction over what's here (in the U.S.)," said Smith. "It comes down to how (importers) can best ensure that their foreign manufacturer has met NHTSA standards and that its products won't develop safety defects.

"For the smaller importer, that's a real challenge. You certainly want to know if you have a problem, who pays for what. I think that foreign manufacturers want to make something that will work (properly), but depending on their sophistication, they may not be doing so.

"Importers and foreign manufacturers need to understand NHTSA's safety laws and ensure that (they) abide by those laws."

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