LOS ANGELES—Goodyear—whose chairman recently trumpeted the superiority of his company's tires over those of Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.—now faces some of the same scrutiny, from the Los Angeles Times.
In an Oct. 25 article, the L.A. newspaper said Goodyear's 16-inch load range E light truck tires—including the Goodyear Wrangler AT and HT tires—have had tread separations that caused eight deaths on U.S. roads.
The Times said it gleaned the information from court documents involving lawsuits the Akron-based tire maker has settled.
Goodyear denounced as "misleading" the charges in the article, saying that in 30 accidents involving the tires described in the story, every one "has shown indication of impact damage, puncture damage or overloading and underinflation."
Goodyear said it knows of 15 deaths and 125 injuries related to the 30 accidents involving load range E tires. "The vast majority of the injuries are scrapes, cuts and bruises," a company spokesman said.
Answering the newspaper in a prepared statement, Joseph M. Gingo, Goodyear senior vice president-technology and global products planning, noted that tread separations don't necessarily mean tires are defective.
"After examining two tires involved in damage claims (no injuries) back in late 1994, we proactively put together a group of engineers to closely examine the cause of these separations," Mr. Gingo said.
While the engineering team found no material, design or manufacturing flaws in the tires, it did notice "the start of an evolution of a new breed of larger vehicles, pickups, vans and towed vehicles, and trends in modifications to those vehicles that might lead to overloading the tires," he said.
Because of the danger of overloading, Goodyear started putting nylon overlays in the Load Range E tires in 1996, though Mr. Gingo added that a nylon overlay in itself "does not prevent tread separations."
A spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the agency has 58 failure reports on file concerning Goodyear Load Range E tires, including reports of four crashes, one death and one injury. NHTSA has not tabulated the vehicles on which these tires are original equipment, because there is no investigation.
The agency will continue to "look for a pattern or trend" regarding a possible defect in the tires, and encourages motorists to "share what they know," the spokesman said.