Government Probes Goodyear Tires

The government opened an investigation today of Goodyear light-truck tires linked to at least 15 U.S. traffic deaths.

The move comes three months after reports of tread separations on Firestone tires led to a nationwide recall.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration decided to investigate Goodyear’s Load Range E tires after receiving more than three dozen complaints about tread separations.

Those tires have been used as original equipment on large trucks made by Ford Motor Co. and Daimler-Chrysler AG. Many of those trucks have been modified for commercial purposes, Goodyear said.

The vehicles in question include some Dodge Ram 4250 and 350 series trucks. About 27.5 million of the tires have been sold since production began in 1991.

Goodyear Confident in Tire Quality

Goodyear has documented 30 accidents, 15 deaths and 125 injuries involving the Load Range E tires, spokesman Chris Aked said Monday, before the NHTSA formally announced its probe.

He said all have been investigated and attributed to problems such as overloading and underinflation, not a defect.

“We’ve said all along that we’re very confident in the integrity of the tires,” Aked said. “There is not any issue with the quality of the tires. There was no reason to take any action as far as I’m concerned.”

Chris Spagnoli, a Santa Monica, Calif., attorney suing Goodyear over tread separation accidents, said she has shared information gathered for her cases with NHTSA.

“I think there is a lot of red flags about these tires both from the accidents that we have information about and the public part of the deposition testimony,” she said.

Similar to Firestone Probe

Similar allegations led to Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.’s Aug. 9 recall of 6.5 million ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tires. NHTSA has received reports of 119 deaths and more than 500 injuries involving Firestone tires.

Reports of tread separations also have plagued Continental General Tire Inc. Lawyers for accident victims suing the Charlotte, N.C.-based company say it deceived the government in a 1993 probe of its GT52S, Ameri-Way and Ameri-Tech tires.

But NHTSA said it will not investigate the allegations because the five-year statute of limitations to penalize companies that withhold information has passed.

In a statement, Continental insisted it “cooperated fully with all requests made by the NHTSA in its 1993 investigation.”