By Miles Moore, Senior Washington reporter
WASHINGTON (May 10, 2013) — Liberty Tire Recycling L.L.C. is defending itself against claims by Kumho Tire U.S.A. Inc. that it sold thousands of recalled tires as used tires, instead of recycling them, saying Kumho never informed it that the tires had been recalled and were to be destroyed.
Kumho claims in a recall notice issued this week that Liberty Tire last summer sold 7,875 Kumho Solus KH25 radial car tires—which had holes drilled through the tread by Kumho to render them unusable—to various tire wholesalers in Texas, New York, North Carolina and Puerto Rico.
In a statement, Liberty Tire said Kumho did not inform them until April 2013 that the tires had been recalled.
"We were not made aware of any NHTSA safety recall that applied to these tires when we received them last summer," Liberty said. "Moreover, these tires were not properly incapacitated by Kumho and were not under a 'destroy-only' contractual agreement."
Under those circumstances, Liberty staff saw nothing inappropriate in identifying some of the Kumho tires as salable on the used tire market, the company said.
Liberty said it is cooperating fully with NHTSA in retrieving and recycling the tires. The company also said it is strengthening its internal procedures to ensure it never again sells recalled tires as used tires.
Kumho told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration April 30 that it was amending a recall of 11,922 Kumho Solus KH25 passenger tires, size 225/45R17.
The tires were manufactured in Kumho's Vietnam factory between Aug. 21, 2011 and June 23, 2012, according to the letter sent to NHTSA by C.H. Kim, Kumho vice president of quality and service. The tires could develop sidewall cracking leading to air loss, he said.
Kumho announced the original recall in August 2012. Between Aug. 6 and Aug. 8, Kumho paid Liberty Tire to dispose of the tires from the Kumho warehouse in Itasca, Ill., according to Mr. Kim.
"Instead, sometime after Aug. 8, 2012, Liberty sold 7,875 tires to various tire wholesalers in Texas, New York, North Carolina and Puerto Rico," he wrote.
After discovering Liberty Tire had resold the recalled tires, Kumho has sought Liberty Tire's assistance in locating the tires, Mr. Kim wrote. It has also sought NHTSA's advice in how to report the matter and remove the tires from the marketplace, he said.
So far 9,612 of the tires have been removed from the road, leaving 2,310 unaccounted for, Mr. Kim told NHTSA. There have been no reports of accidents, injuries or deaths involving the tires, he said.
Kumho began mailing notifications to tire owners on May 6, according to NHTSA. Meanwhile, owners may contact Kumho at 909- 428-3999.