WASHINGTON (Oct. 5, 2000) — The wake of the Firestone recall and controversy has created complications for two other tire makers.
Continental General Tire Inc. was the subject of a Chicago Sun-Times article accusing the tire maker of withholding information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in a 1993 investigation involving General TG52S, Ameri*Way and Ameri*Tech tires.
Meanwhile, Thomas A. Dattilo, chairman, president and CEO of Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., felt compelled to issue a press release Sept. 24 saying NHTSA Administrator Sue Bailey feels that current complaint information on Cooper tires does not warrant an investigation at this time.
The Sun-Times article involved documents culled from a lawsuit involving Conti General. NHTSA opened a preliminary evaluation of the General tires in March 1993, after receiving five reports of fatal accidents. Finding no further evidence of defects, the agency closed the investigation that July.
According to the newspaper, however, documents from the lawsuit show that at least 13 more people died in accidents involving those tires after the investigation ended. Also, the tire maker failed to tell NHTSA about a "consumer confidence" campaign conducted through Big O Tires Inc. in 1990-91, when Big O passed complaints about the tires on to Conti General.
A NHTSA spokesman said it´s unlikely the agency will reopen the issue. "We have no concrete evidence that there was any wrongdoing, and anyway, the statute of limitations ended a long time ago on an investigation from 1993," he said.
Conti General officials couldn´t be reached for comment, but the Washington Post quoted Daryl Hollnagel, Conti General corporate counsel, as saying the company "complied fully" with NHTSA´s information requests. Conti General was under no obligation to tell the agency about the Big O campaign, he added.
Mr. Dattilo, in his press release, said he spoke to Ms. Bailey via phone Sept. 22 about the complaint information NHTSA had on Cooper. Among other things, Ms. Bailey "confirmed that NHTSA has received very few complaints about Cooper over the past 10 years." Also, he noted, NHTSA officials have said publicly that complaints have risen for all tire makers in the light of the Firestone recall.
"We will immediately begin providing our data to NHTSA to dispel any rumor about Cooper´s quality," Mr. Dattilo said.
The NHTSA spokesman said he had no comment on Mr. Dattilo´s release, except that Ms. Bailey met face-to-face with Mr. Dattilo and other Cooper officials Sept. 29.