Retail

Timeline to recall -- in Foreign Tire Sales' own words

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Foreign Tire Sales Inc. (FTS) claims Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co. Ltd. (HZ) is hanging it out to dry, and wants to give its side of the story in detail.

The Union, N.J.-based importer is preparing to recall up to 450,000 faulty radial light truck tires that the Chinese company made for it. (See "Foreign Tire Sales sets date for start of recall," July 3, 2007.)

FTS says the following timeline, in its own words, details Hangzhou's lack of cooperation in the case.

(To date, Hangzhou has not responded to Modern Tire Dealer's efforts to contact it. We will be sure to run its side of the story when we hear from the company.)

2000: "In or about 2000, FTS began discussing with HZ to have the latter design and manufacture light truck radial tires.

"FTS' full-time engineer… conducted numerous discussions with HZ engineers to ensure that the tires were designed and manufactured correctly. HZ was responsible for conducting all tests in accordance with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. HZ reportedly conducted such tests and the tires met or exceeded the requirements of FMVSS 119."

2001: "FTS commissioned High Q testing to conduct endurance tests on a number of subject tires. The costs of these tests were shared between FTS and HZ. These tests revealed that the tires could be driven on for 40,000 miles without exhibiting any separations.

"Based on this testing, as well as the fact the tires met or exceeded all FMVSS requirements, FTS agreed to purchase them and import them into the U.S.

"While FTS initially had the exclusive right to import HZ LTR tires into the U.S., over the years, FTS revoked that exclusivity and sold such tires to others in the U.S.

"At some point in time, unbeknownst to FTS, HZ unilaterally changed the construction of the subject tires by omitting belt-edge or gum strips between the belts. HZ did not advise FTS of this construction change."

2005: "In or about October 2005, FTS began to become concerned by a sharp increase in adjustments for the HZ LTR tires. Over time, FTS became suspicious that HZ had been manufacturing the subject tires without belt-edge strips or with insufficient belt-edge strips or other components to reduce the possibility of belt separation.

"Shortly thereafter, FTS began questioning HZ about this issue. HZ assured FTS that there were no problems with the tire. In the interim, FTS had Standard Testing Laboratories of Massillon, Ohio, cut sections from some HZ LTR tires. Visual analysis was not conclusive but seemed to indicate that there were no gum strips or insufficient gum strips in the inspected tires."

May, 2006: "FTS was advised of an accident which occurred in New Mexico involving an ambulance. It was reported that the belts separated in an HZ-manufactured tire causing a loss of control. There were no significant personal injuries. To the best of FTS' knowledge, no litigation has been commenced as a result of that incident.

"FTS made arrangements to inspect the tires. Sections of HZ tires manufactured in 2004 and 2005 removed from other ambulances owned by the same company were obtained by FTS and inspected. These sections revealed belt edge separations and that there were no or insufficient gum strips in the subject tires."

September, 2006: "In or about September 2006, HZ finally admitted that it had unilaterally decided to omit the gum strip in its LTR tires for an undisclosed period of time. In September 2006, FTS and its counsel met with HZ in an attempt to determine when HZ omitted the belt-edge strips, how many tires were affected, what the DOT range of said tires was and what HZ was going to do about it. HZ was generally unresponsive.

"FTS also requested that HZ provide design and construction documents. While HZ permitted FTS to view some of these documents at the September meeting, HZ would not provide FTS with copies contending that the documents were proprietary and confidential. FTS also requested that HZ conduct tests pursuant to FMVSS 139 to determine if FTS would resume purchasing LTR tires."

2006-2007: "For several months FTS continued its inquiries along these lines with HZ. At the same time, FTS continued its own investigation into the issue. FTS spent considerable amounts of time communicating with HZ to learn the extent of the problem in order to determine what it could do. HZ continued to be generally unresponsive."

March, 2007: "FTS located tires manufactured by HZ in 2005 and commissioned High Q Testing to again conduct endurance testing. Shearography analysis revealed belt separations in the tested tires, and tests were halted at 25,000 miles. HZ was alerted to these findings."

May-June, 2007: "FTS was served with complaints captioned 'Joao Paulo DaSilva vs. General Motors et als.' Docket 004374, Court of Common Please, Philadelphia, Pa., and 'Robert McCulley vs. General Motors Corp. et als.' Docket 004376, Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia, Pa.

"These complaints allege that the tread of an HZ LTR, Telluride, size 245/75R16 tire, has separated, causing their van to roll over. Two deaths and a significant brain injury resulted from the roll-over. Per 49 CFR 579.26, this incident must be reported.

"On May 30, 2007, FTS filed suit against HZ in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. An amended complaint was filed on June 4."

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