DETROIT (AP) — Federal investigators say Goodyear knew that some of its recreational vehicle tires could fail and cause severe crashes, yet it didn't recall them for as many as 20 years.
Goodyear wouldn’t recall the tires as late as March of this year, even though investigators found that their failure caused crashes that killed eight people and injured 69 others from 1998 through 2009.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration made the allegations against Akron, Ohio-based Goodyear in a Feb. 22 letter sent to the company seeking a recall of 22.5-inch-diameter G159 tires.
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. responded to the agency in a March 8 letter refusing to do a recall, but later it decided to conduct one, according to NHTSA documents.
The NHTSA letter says the company should have recalled the tires within five working days of becoming aware of a safety defect, which it apparently knew of as early as 2002.
“The safety-related defect is clear, identified failure that leads to a loss of vehicle control, causing crashes and potentially catastrophic consequences such as death and serious injury,” NHTSA wrote in the letter.
Documents say the tire tread can separate from the body, causing drivers to lose control and increasing the risk of a crash.
The agency posted documents Tuesday showing that Goodyear had agreed to recall 173,000 of the tires, which have been out of production since 2003.
Automakers such as General Motors and Toyota have faced large fines and prosecution from the Department of Justice for failing to recall vehicles in the time frame required by law.
In its response letter to NHTSA, Goodyear maintained that the tires were rigorously tested and fully qualified to operate at highway speeds. “No subject tire inspected by Goodyear engineers ever revealed or even suggested a defect of any kind,” the company wrote.
Goodyear said Tuesday that few, if any, of the tires 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.