Foreign Tires Sales, a New Jersey tire importer and distributor, requested Monday that the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration recall about 500,000 tires made for SUVs, pickups and light-duty trucks.
The tires were manufactured in China by the Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Company for the brands Westlake, Telluride, Compass and YKS. In addition to New Jersey, the tires are distributed out of Minnesota, Florida, Maryland and California.
FTS first suspected the tires were defective after a rise in warranty claims in October 2005 prompted it to conduct its own tests. In May 2006, the tests confirmed that the tires were either missing or had an insufficient amount of gum grip component commonly used between belts to keeps tires from separating. An investigation prompted by a death and injury lawsuit in 2006 revealed similar conclusions.
The lawsuit involved the accident of a 200 Chevrolet Express 2500 Cargo Van in August 2006. After one of the van's tires came apart, its driver lost control and crashed. One person was killed and one was left with permanent brain damage, according to a statement from the victims' attorneys.
Tread separation is a common problem among defective tires and was at the center of the 2000 Firestone tire recall involving Ford cars, SUVs and trucks.
FTS said in a press release that Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber has not yet made available the tire identification number for those made without gum grip. Because it can not identify exactly which tires are missing the safety feature, it has requested a broad recall from the NHTSA.