LAS VEGAS (Oct. 31, 2007) –- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is stepping up efforts to understand and-–when necessary-–police the importing of aftermarket automotive components, top NHTSA officials told attendees this week at the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas.
“The increasing pace of imports means increased scrutiny,” according to Daniel Smith, associate administrator for enforcement within NHTSA, at a SEMA Wheel & Tire Council (WTC) town hall meeting Oct. 29.
The surge in imports the past several years-–especially from China and other “developing countries”–-has caught the attention of NHTSA and legislators. This situation came to a head earlier this year when tire importer Foreign Tire Sales Inc. (FTS) notified NHTSA it suspected several hundred thousand light truck tires it had imported from Chinese tire maker Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co. Ltd. had a manufacturing anomaly that could lead to premature tire failure.
The situation proved problematic after FTS declared it was financially unable to carry out a recall of 450,000 suspected tires, and Hangzhou Zhongce disputed FTS's claims. Under U.S. law, the importer of a product is considered the manufacturer of record if the foreign manufacturer has no other representation in this country, Mr. Smith said.
As a result of this situation, NHTSA has revised its process for selecting the tires it tests randomly every year, making sure the mix more closely resembles the marketplace, which last year was more than 40 percent imports, he said.
In addition, a NHTSA delegation visited a recent tire expo in Shanghai, China, where they met with representatives of the Chinese government and Chinese tire companies to exchange information and ideas, Mr. Smith said. In particular the delegation strove to make clear the legal obligations manufacturers have when exporting products to the U.S.
In particular, the delegation met with representatives of Hangzhou Zhongce and toured its facilities.
Jim Ports Jr., deputy director of NHTSA, reiterated and elaborated on Mr. Smith's comments during his presentation Oct. 30 to the Tire Industry Association breakfast with the president.