Goodyear has agreed to recall more than 173,000 intended for commercial delivery vehicles and RVs nearly two decades after the last one was manufactured. The company’s G159 tires have been under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) since December of 2017 and the recall comes in the wake of years of lawsuits alleging the rubber contributed to a series of fatal accidents dating back to 1998.
Despite no new claims having launched in years, court orders and settlement agreements delayed an order to make corporate data pertaining to the tire-buying public for five full years. The NHTSA didn’t even launch a formal investigation until late in 2017, followed by the recent announcement that the agency has pushed Goodyear into a recall for a tire that ended production during the Bush administration.
Manufactured between 1996 to 2003, the tires were eventually supplanted by the G159A after criticisms began to turn into lawsuits. According to the Associated Press, some of the initial lawsuits alleged that the tires were designed specifically for delivery trucks and were never intended for use by recreational vehicles traveling long distances at sustained highway speeds. Though the real issue seems to be that Goodyear was repeatedly accused of intentionally trying to obfuscate the matter while hiding any internal data that would support those claims via settlement agreements.
It wasn’t clear how many potential fatalities the G159 tires were involved in until after the NHTSA launched its investigation. By 2018, the number was estimated to be 95.
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., based in Akron, Ohio, denied that the tires have a safety defect and said Tuesday that few, if any, are still on the road. The company said it’s doing the recall to address risks that happen when the tires are underinflated or overloaded on motorhomes.
“This tire hasn’t been made since 2003, it consistently met Goodyear’s demanding safety standards, and we have not received an injury claim related to the tire’s use on a Class A motorhome in more than 14 years,” Goodyear said in a prepared statement.
Documents show that the government safety agency sent Goodyear a letter requesting a recall of the 22.5-inch diameter tires on Feb. 22 of this year, and the company declined the request on March 8. But Goodyear later agreed to the recall “to address concerns that some of these tires may still be in the marketplace or in use.”
NHTSA must hold a public hearing and then go to court to force a company to do a recall.
Considering how few are probably left on the road, Goodyear has opted to replace G159 tires with a newer model at no cost to RV owners. Those using the tire on other vehicles will be allowed to exchange them for $500 (which wouldn’t quite cover the cost of the newer G159A).
But it’s unlikely to get a lot of takers as anybody who is keeping a set of 19-year-old tires on their vehicle has probably been killed already. Joking aside, rolling around on a set of rubber that’s old enough to drink in some countries is a terrible idea and it’s doubtful there will be many people taking advantage of this particular recall. Goodyear even noted that the RV companies that used the G159 as factory rubber aren’t even in business anymore — making it difficult for it to acquire the relevant registration data as a way of contacting impacted owners. It also added that they would have been the ones responsible for communicating to customers what the appropriate load limits should be.
Meanwhile, the NHTSA is making itself look busy by issuing statements to the public to check if their RV or delivery vehicle uses G159 tires sized for a 22.5-inch rim. It said it believes the units yield a comparatively high failure rate vs similar tires — though just about every tire their age probably would at this point.
“If their vehicle has these tires, they should have this recall completed as soon as possible,” the NHTSA stated.
I’m not sure what the big takeaway for this one is beyond widespread embarrassment. Assuming the tires were bad news from the start, Goodyear does seem to have gone well out of its way to hide any data that would back up assertions the G159 was dangerous. Meanwhile, the government seemed to be largely incapable or disinterested in taking the regulatory actions necessary to get them off the road in a timely fashion. Again, the NHTSA’s formal investigation didn’t really pick up steam until 2018 and only just managed to result in a comprehensive recall for a bunch of tires that aren’t even in use anymore.
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