AKRON (Nov. 13, 2000)— Goodyear has been on the defensive after a Los Angeles Times report that the tiremaker has been replacing its Load Range E tires for light-commercial vehicles and reimbursing customers for replacing failed tires.
"There´s no product defects with any of these tires," said Chris Aked, Goodyear director of global communications. "We´ve made it quite clear that this isn´t any kind of a recall situation." Some tire dealers and consumers have alleged that Goodyear was carrying out a "silent recall," and that only customers who complained about the tires were getting them replaced, the paper reported
Mr. Aked said over the past five years Goodyear has been handling a higher amount of consumer complaints about its Load Range E tires — but most of the complaints stem from misuse of the tires.
"What we´ve noticed over the last couple years was an increasing tendency for vehicles to be overloaded," Mr. Aked said. He said the tire maker´s dealers handle each complaint on an individual basis, which is Goodyear´s standard practice for all of its tires.
After complaints started escalating, Goodyear in 1996 started putting a nylon cap on Load Range E tires for reinforcement. The cap was to make the tires more robust but not to prevent tread separation, Mr. Aked said.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asked Goodyear for information regarding 15 deaths involving its Load Range E tires. He said the company will cooperate with NHTSA. But the fatal accidents, he said, are related to specific individual problems with the tires and not to a defect.
"If you take each one on a case-by-case basis, you will see that there were reasons why the tire failed," Mr. Aked said. He said the fatal accidents were caused by various factors such as punctured
tires, improperly repaired tires, tires with side impact damage and overloading.
The ,Times reported on Oct. 25 that Goodyear had faced at least 20 lawsuits citing tread separation on its 16-inch Load Range E tires since 1995 and that it had settled some of those suits. Goodyear, the same day, issued a release in its defense, saying there were "no material, design or manufacturing process issues with these tires."
Load Range E tires include the Goodyear Wrangler AT, Goodyear Wrangler HT, Goodyear Allseason Workhorse, Kelly-Springfield Power King and Kelly-Springfield Trailbuster.
Goodyear, based in Akron, had $1.49 billion in original equipment part sales to North American OEMs in 1999.