A federal agency has begun investigating Michelin North America Inc.-made Phantom A/P passenger and light truck tires, which the company began recalling of its own volition in June.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened a preliminary evaluation into 192,000 Phantom A/P passenger and light truck tires on July 9. The probe came as no surprise to the tire maker, a company spokeswoman said.
On June 14, Michelin informed NHTSA of its ``voluntary consumer satisfaction program'' to replace four sizes of Phantom A/P brand tires, she said, noting the company is ``voluntarily providing its own engineering data and analysis to NHTSA to assist the agency in its evaluation.''
The company figures it will replace about 30,000 of the tires manufactured between January 1997 and December 1999 that are left on the road, the spokeswoman said, adding that about two-thirds of those are passenger tires.
The tires, produced for Arizona's Discount Tire Co., were sold in 66 cities. They are LT245/75R16 Phantom Load Range E, LT235/85R16 Phantom A/P Load Range E, P235/75R15 Phantom A/P Standard Load, and P235/75R15 Phantom A/P Standard Load. Michelin still makes the tires, the spokeswoman said, but they are engineered differently to eliminate problems that occurred in the years between 1997 and 1999.
NHTSA said its Office of Defects Investigation has no complaints on file about the tires, and that Michelin has received no reports of injuries regarding them. The tire maker said the tires aren't defective, but ``a fraction of the number may be affected by the extreme use and environmental conditions that can cause them to come out of service before the usable tread is worn.''
Those conditions include overloading and under-inflation, coupled with rough terrain and constant high temperatures, the company said.
To date, there has been one accident associated with the tires, the company said. It occurred after the replacement campaign began.
While the tire maker initially said the target date for completing the replacement program was July 16, the spokeswoman said it will run longer.