FRANKFURT, Germany-Creation of a European quality standard for retreaded tires, a process that only recently appeared to be on its way to completion, has become entangled in a bureaucratic spider's web of overlapping agencies and conflicting national interests. Looming over the process is the specter of ``type approval,'' whereby any component fitted to a motor vehicle sold in the European Union has to be approved for that particular vehicle. Type approval is due to take effect next year. However, governing authorities and manufacturers disagree on the extent of the approval process regarding aftermarket parts.
Improved quality-and a resultant increase in consumer acceptance-is the hoped-for result of a European standard for retreaded tires, representatives agree.
Two proposals, one worked out by representatives of retreaders' trade associations and another by the rubber product manufacturers' associations, are currently in the review pipeline. But a disagreement over which standards-drafting body should oversee the process has the industry on edge.
Both Bipaver-the international federation of tire retailing and retreading associations-and Blic-the federation of European rubber manufacturers' associations-have drafted proposals for a retreading standard. And both have said the best body to review the proposals is the European standards body in Brussels CEN (Committee European de Normalisation).
Concurrently, though, the German government-at the urging of the TuV product testing agency-has petitioned the Geneva-based Economic Commission of Europe to review its regulations covering new tires to determine whether they can be amended to cover retreads as well. ECE is an arm of the United Nations, and it got into the standards business in the 1960s by default.
It is this latter course of action that potentially could open the retread industry up to the rigors of type approval, according to Bipaver, which said it ``will be pressing to ensure that any such amendment to ECE Regulations 30 and 54 will be consistent with the agreed position stated in its new standard.''
Both Bipaver and Blic argue that retreaders would suffer inordinately under type approval because each individual retreaded tire could be considered a distinctive product, and therefore would be subject to the type approval procedures.
In the works for nearly a year, the Bipaver proposal is based on the standards and best practices of retreaders in Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom, and is designed to put retreading on more equal footing across the continent. Currently, each country has its own operating standard for retreaders, although the British, Italian or German standards are largely abided by most nations.
``The standard will contribute to a pan-European improvement in the public image of retreaded car tires,'' said Bipaver, without offering details of how it might foster the promotion of retreads to the buying public.
One way the standard could be used to affect public opinion would be to couple it to a quality symbol molded into the sidewall and promoted as such to potential buyers, said Brenno Benaglia, commercial director for Marangoni Pneumatici and head of Bipaver's technical and retreaders committee.
Adherence to the standard would be voluntary at first, but those involved with it would like to see enforcement power behind it eventually.
At the same time, the standard-if adopted-would counter a number of ``radical'' proposals considered by the European Union's ``ERGA'' noise group that could have a serious impact on the future of truck tire retreading, Bipaver said.
Among other things, the ERGA proposals under consideration will require that retreaded tires be tested for noise generation under the same test criteria as new tires, a development retreaders, dealers and truckers all say would make retreading cost-prohibitive.
Representatives of Bipaver and Blic have scheduled a meeting in early May in Munich, Germany, to review their separate proposals and try to establish common ground between them, said Mr. Benaglia.
The proposals being discussed cover primarily passenger, light truck and truck tire retreading. Among the provisions agreed to, the Bipaver standard would restrict retreaded tires to a maximum V-rating (H-rating for winter tires), limit the number of retreadings per passenger casing to one, and clearly define repair guidelines for casings.
Once Bipaver and Blic agree on one proposal and pass it to CEN for review, it could still take up to a year before CEN issues it as a standard, and a further year before it starts to be brought into play-1997 at the earliest.