Goodyear is recalling 173,000 G159 tires that were investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Federal investigators say Goodyear knew some of its RV tires could fail and cause serious accidents, but it didn’t recall them for 20 years.

Goodyear would not recall the tires even in March this year, although investigators found their failure caused crashes that killed eight people and injured 69 others from 1998 to 2009.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration made the allegations against Akron, Ohio-based Goodyear in a Feb. 22 letter sent to the company requesting a recall of 22.5-inch-diameter G159 tires.

Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. responded to the agency in a March 8 letter declining to do a recall, but later decided to do one, according to NHTSA documents.

The letter from NHTSA says the company should have recalled the tires within five business days of becoming aware of a safety defect, which it apparently knew about as early as 2002.

“Safety-related defect is a clear and identified failure that results in loss of vehicle control, causing crashes and potentially catastrophic consequences such as death and serious injury,” NHTSA wrote in the letter.

Documents indicate that the tire tread can separate from the body, causing the driver to lose control and increasing the risk of a crash. In one case, a front tire on a motorhome broke while a man and his family were returning from vacation. The driver heard a loud pop and lost control of the 40-foot-long RV, which crossed the median and opposite lanes of traffic and hit an embankment. The driver was paralyzed and three other passengers suffered fractured spines and pelvic bones, the letter said, without specifying where or when the crash occurred.

The agency released documents on Tuesday showing Goodyear had agreed to recall 173,000 of the tires, which have not been manufactured since 2003.

Automakers such as General Motors and Toyota have faced steep fines and lawsuits from the Justice Department for failing to recall vehicles within the time frames required by law.

In its response letter to NHTSA, Goodyear maintained that the tires had been rigorously tested and fully qualified to operate at highway speeds. “None of the subject tires inspected by Goodyear engineers ever revealed or even suggested a defect of any kind,” the company wrote.

On Tuesday, Goodyear said the tires were not defective and few, if any, were still on the road. The company said it was carrying out the recall to address the risks that arise when tires are under-inflated or overloaded on motorhomes.

In its letter, NHTSA presented a detailed timeline of what Goodyear knew when, based on a tire investigation that began in 2017. It also said the company routinely settles lawsuits and asks judges to seal the information, keeping it from NHTSA and other complainants. ‘ lawyers.

“Goodyear’s penchant for secrecy undoubtedly provided an ancillary benefit in preventing injured litigants and their attorneys from providing information about G159-related accidents,” the letter states. “NHTSA was not alerted to the extraordinary failure rate of the tires in question” until documents were released in a 2017 Arizona case, the letter said.

Goodyear’s behavior should result in a fine from NHTSA and criminal charges from the Department of Justice, said Michael Brooks, acting executive director of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety. His organization is among those that have sued to have records released in the Arizona case.

“There was clearly wrongdoing and what looks like intentional malfeasance or corporate misconduct,” Brooks said.

Goodyear’s conduct is similar to that of General Motors, which covered up an ignition switch fault that caused crashes, deaths and injuries, David Kurtz, the attorney in the case, wrote Tuesday. Arizona who notified NHTSA of the tire failures. “Prosecutors discovered there was an ongoing scheme to defraud a federal regulator resulting in massive penalties,” he wrote.

In 2015, General Motors agreed to pay more than $900 million to avoid criminal prosecution over the deadly ignition switch scandal, striking a deal that criticized the Justice Department for failing to press charges against employees. individual. The switches, which could slide out of the “on” position and kill the engine, were linked to at least 124 deaths and 275 injuries.

The NHTSA letter stated that the G159 tire, sized 275/70R22.5, was introduced in 1996 for start-and-stop urban delivery vehicles and sold for roads with a maximum speed limit of 65 mph ( 104.6 kilometers per hour), because all roads were in 1996.

Later they were used as original equipment tires on large RVs that typically travel long distances on highways. Such use can increase tire temperature and deteriorate tire performance and life, the letter states.

In 2007, a Goodyear engineer testified in a court case that running heavy-duty tires above 200 degrees Fahrenheit could cause tread separation. Yet in August 1996, Goodyear tests of the recalled tires revealed temperatures “well over 200 degrees F at 50 mph,” the letter says.

Goodyear began receiving injury claims in 1998 after some states raised highway speed limits to 75 mph. He also received death requests every year from 2002 to 2006, the letter said.

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