HOUSTON-General Tire Inc. has appealed a Nov. 16 court order that would have required it to make public certain adjustment and other records pertaining to a former line of passenger radials suspected of safety defects. The 14th Court of Civil Appeals in Houston, Nov. 30, also granted General Tire's request for an emergency stay of the order pending a decision on the company's appeal.
The tire maker has argued that its own records suggest no unusual safety problems with the tires and that releasing such data would only reveal its trade secrets.
Meanwhile, General Tire said it ``voluntarily'' has turned over some of the data for evaluation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has been asked by consumer advocates to look into the matter.
The products in question include the company's GT52S and AmeriÃWay XT tires made between 1986 and 1990 at the company's Mt. Vernon, Ill., plant.
How many of the tires were produced during that period has not been disclosed and is part of the information the lower court had ordered General to make public.
However, more than a million GT52S tires, sizes P195/75R15 and P205/75R15, were installed as original equipment on Ford Motor Co.'s Bronco II, according to the Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, one of three Washington, D.C.-based consumer advocacy groups seeking to make the data public.
The two other groups, Public Citizen and the Center for Public Safety, have called on NHTSA to reopen its 1993 investigation of the tires, which they contend are unusually susceptible to tread separations and/or blowouts under hot-weather conditions.
Last year NHTSA conducted a ``preliminary evaluation'' of the GT52S following reports of seven fatal accidents involving the tires. Later, the agency dropped its investigation after concluding there was ``no evidence of a defect trend'' associated with the tires.
The consumer groups, however, say additional data now is available which was not at NHTSA's disposal during its earlier probe.
Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen and former NHTSA administrator, said it is ``imperative'' that NHTSA reopen the investigation ``now that more factors are available.''
While many of the affected tires probably are no longer in service, some-particularly those installed on the spare wheels of the Bronco II-are still turning up. Several have been the subject of lawsuits resulting from alleged failures.
The lower court's Nov. 16 order stemmed from a lawsuit brought by the victim of a 1992 accident in which a Bronco II rolled over following an apparent tire failure.