YONKERS, N.Y.Consumer Reports (CR) magazine is shining a spotlight on the counterfeit tire market as a follow-up to its recent ratings of all-season pickup and SUV tires that for the first time included three Chinese tire brands.
However, the magazine said it tested Pegasus Advanta SUV tires that have since been deemed counterfeit.
CR said in its Nov. 17 article that it was contacted by American Pacific Industries Inc. (API), the owner and distributor of the Pegasus Advanta brand, alleging that the Pegasus-brand tires the magazine tested were what the company called gray marketproduced or sold by a factory and vendor that was not authorized to make or distribute themand from tire molds that may have been stolen.
In October, CR released its ratings of 20 all-weather and all-season tires for light-duty pickups and SUVs and for the first time also rated three Chinese brandsthe Pegasus Advanta SUV, the Geostar GS716 and the Sunny SN3606which all finished at the bottom of a group tested.
The Pegasus Advanta SUV came in 20th but CR later removed the ratings for the tire after API informed CR that the tires it tested were not distributed by an authorized Pegasus vendor. API also has been phasing out the Pegasus name in favor of the Advanta brand name.
API claimed CR's results were far below API's internal test results of the Pegasus Advanta SUV when it came to snow traction. Date codes of the sample tires revealed that they were not manufactured or distributed by authorized parties, according to the magazine. API officials claimed there was no way that the tires were legitimate as the factory that produced them was no longer a Pegasus-authorized factory at that period in time, according to CR.
CR reprinted a portion of the letter it received from Barry Littrell, API's COO:
The Pegasus Advanta SUV tires you tested...were not produced by any authorized vendor to American Pacific Industries, who owns the trademark 'Pegasus Advanta SUV' and the hardware used to produce those tires.... American Pacific Industries' relationship with this factory ended in 2011 [and] our records indicate the last shipment of these tires in the SUV pattern was in December of 2011.
In his letter Mr. Littrell also stated that the factory was destroyed after API's contract ended. Many of our molds went missing at that time. We have no idea who may have made these tires nor what they put in them, he said. API officials did not return calls from Tire Business for comment.
CR said it bought all 10 of the tested Pegasus Advanta SUV tires online at Tires-easy.com, an online retail tire website that specializes in low-priced tires. CR said the company was unaware of any counterfeit tires on its site.
The magazine reported that API indicated it would handle, on a case-by-case basis, any consumer complaints involving the Pegasus Advanta SUV tires.
Roy Littlefield, executive vice president of the Tire Industry Association (TIA), told Tire Business that counterfeit tires are a huge problem.
He said tire manufacturers raised the concern about counterfeit tires with TIA about eight years ago and the association has been working with tire makers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to try to educate retailers about avoiding counterfeit tires and the liability concerns of selling such tires since these tires are not officially tested for safety and performance.
Tire dealers who deal with reputable distributors and know how to read tire sidewall markings do not have to worry about getting stuck with counterfeit tires, Mr. Littlefield said. Counterfeit tires are usually offered outside normal distribution channels at cheaper than normal prices with the promise of a higher profit margin.
Mr. Littlefield acknowledged that everybody is trying to save money in the tough economy, but he warned against the temptation to buy cheap knock-offs.
It's a safety issue. It's not worth the gamble to break the law to save some money, he said. Counterfeit tires could actually cost dealers more in terms of liability if their customers are injured due to an unsafe tire, he warned.
He urged tire dealers and distributors to contact TIA if they learn of counterfeit tires being sold in their markets.