Too little too late, Goodyear is recalling nearly 41,000 Wrangler Silent Armor flagship tires. If the company had responded to warranty and property damage claims that it had been receiving about these tires for over a year, it might have been able to prevent the tire-related rollover crash that killed two Texas college students three months ago.
The August 1, 2011 incident claimed the lives of Matthew Smith and his passenger Kerrybeth Hall, as Smith drove southbound on U.S. Highway 67 in Pecos County, Texas. The left rear Wrangler Silent Armor tire on the 2008 Ford F-150 pickup de-treaded, causing the pick-up to skid and rollover. Smith was fatally ejected from the F-150. Hall, who was properly restrained, also suffered fatal injuries in the crash.
“I think Goodyear was getting lot of warranty claims, but said, ‘Let’s see what happens,” says David T. Bright, an attorney with Sico, White, Hoeschler & Braugh of Corpus Christi, TX, who represents Gerry Lynn Wilkinson, Kerrybeth’s mother, in the civil case against Goodyear. “Then Goodyear waited another 12 months, and decided: Hang on. Let’s wait a while longer. And three months later, these two people got killed.”
According to documentation Goodyear filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on February 22, the tiremaker had first noticed elevated property damage and warranty claims for the Wrangler Silent Armor tire, during its May 2010 review of Early Warning Data. Over the next 12 months, the company would continue to see high levels of warranty and property damage claims specifically for six sizes of the tires produced at its Fayetteville plant. But Goodyear still resisted a recall, passing off the uptick as isolated cases caused by “stone drilling damage and other external damage to the tires.” –SafetyResearch.net
So why were only tires made at the Fayetteville plant producing warranty and property damage claims? Possibly because during the same period when these tires were manufactured, 15 workers at the Fayetteville plant were running a drug operation out of the plant. They were busted by the Cumberland County Sheriff’s office in March 2010, just before the claims on these tires started coming in to Goodyear. “69 charges among them allege that the suspects were operating a full-service drugstore, trafficking cocaine, marijuana, Ecstasy, opium and other prescription drugs.” –SafetyResearch.net
Yes, it just seems crazy. Goodyear should have acted sooner to recall the Wrangler Silent Armor tires simply due to the claims coming in. But when 15 of its plant workers were busted for running a drug ring, shouldn’t Goodyear have done more rigorous following up about the quality of the job they did manufacturing tires?