MFG 2.0

Tire Recall Looms, Chinese Product Problems Roll On

In what is proving to be either a serious case of bad timing or an even more serious case of bad practices, another high-profile problem with a Chinese-made product has hit the front pages (see the full IW story).

Earlier this week, Federal officials ordered a small, New Jersey-based importer to recall nearly a half million Chinese-made tires after investigations revealed that they were manufactured without gum strips which help bind the tire belts together -- and which are mandated by federal law -- meaning that the light-truck tires may fail at highway speeds.

The importer, FTS, said in a filing to the NHTSA that the nonconforming tires were sold under at least four brand names -- Westlake, Compass, Telluride and YKS -- in these sizes:

LT235/75R-15
LT225/75R-16
LT235/85R-16
LT245/75R-16
LT265/75R-16
LT3X10.5-15


In its letter to the NHTSA, lawyers for FTS said the following:

Importantly, FTS is not the only company that has imported/sold HZ/LTR tires manufactured at the relevant times. Upon information and belief the following may have imported/sold tires of similar construction:


Tireco in Compton, Calif.;
Strategic Import Supply in Wayzata, Minn.;
Omni United USA Inc., in Jacksonville, Fla.;
Orteck International Inc., in Gaithersburg, Md.;
K&D Tire Wholesalers LLC, in Carlsbad, Calif.; and
Robinson Tire, in Laurel, Miss.


The Chinese manufacturer, Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co., has so far failed to provide information that would allow FTS and the NHTSA to determine exactly how many tires in which batches were sold, and by whom.

Unsurprisingly, FTS has sued Hangzhou in U.S. District Court in Newark, charging that at some point in their business dealings Hangzhou started providing defective tires that didn't meet the specs of the original contract.

A Hangzhou company official reached by the Wall Street Journal said: "We are aware of this matter, and we are now in the process of responding to the lawsuit. Production and sales at our company remain normal."

Ouch.

It's important here to remember that the largest event of this kind we've seen in this country was the 14.7 million American-made Firestone tires recalled in 2000.

However, one big difference is that Firestone could afford both the recall and the lawsuits, whereas FTS will most likely go under -- and where does that leave consumers?

As for Hangzhou, I'm willing to bet that their tire export business keeps rolling on...

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