Goodyear has voluntarily recalled more than 170,000 out-of-production tires that prompted lawsuits claiming that they had caused crashes that killed or injured people, federal transportation officials said on Tuesday.
The tires, which were last produced in 2003 and were sold for use on trucks and recreational vehicles, “experienced a high rate of failure on RVs when compared to similar tires,” the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a statement on Tuesday, following the recall of the tires last week.
When installed on some motor homes, they were prone to “tread separations and other failures,” according to the recall report. “Tread separations can lead to loss of vehicle control, resulting in increased risk of crash.”
Because the tires were discontinued nearly two decades ago, the safety agency said it did not know how many remained in circulation, but warned that some RV owners may still have the tires on their vehicle, or set aside as spares.
In Tuesday’s statement, the safety agency urged “anyone who owns, rents, or uses an RV or truck with 22.5-inch rims to ensure these tires are not in use on their vehicle.” The recall, it added, applies specifically to G159 tires size 275/70R22.5, that are commonly found on RVs
In a statement on its website, Goodyear maintained that there was “no safety defect” in the tire.
The company initiated the voluntary recall, it said, to “address risks shown to occur when the tire was used in an underinflated or overloaded condition” on specific motor homes. The responsibility for communicating appropriate load standards to drivers, the company added, was the RV manufacturers’.
“We have not received an injury claim related to the tire’s use on a Class A motorhome in more than 14 years,” said Goodyear, adding that the tire had consistently met with its “demanding safety standards.”
Of the tires, it added that, “few, if any, remain on the road.”
The recall followed years of legal battles against the tire company, with many of the documents from those cases sealed.
But in 2017, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation into the failures of the tire based on information obtained from that litigation, which claimed that the tires, when installed on some motor homes, had failed, causing deaths or personal injuries.
From 1998 to 2015, a total of 95 people were either killed or injured in crashes resulting from the faulty tires, according to claims reviewed by the safety agency.
The specific size of the G159 tire was intended for use on inner-city delivery trucks, but had instead been sold and installed on large RVs, which travel for longer periods, and on highways at much higher speeds.
“In this application,” the safety agency wrote in its findings, “the tire experienced catastrophic tread separations and blowouts.”
Goodyear knew that the tires could not withstand this kind of use, according to the safety agency.
On Feb. 22, it sent a letter to Goodyear requesting that the company recall the tire. On March 8, Goodyear declined that request, the agency added. But the company has since conducted a recall, the agency said.
The safety agency urged any drivers with the tires to obtain a free replacement, available at some Goodyear dealers. The company is also offering $500 in exchange for impacted tires that have not been fitted on an RV, the agency said.
Michael Brooks, the acting executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group, said that the recall was an important first step toward holding Goodyear accountable.
“This was essentially a successful cover-up until now,” Mr. Brooks said, adding that the government and legal system had long failed to protect the American public from the safety risks posed by the tires, and that he hoped the recall might spur further civil and criminal penalties.
“They have continually denied responsibility,” he said of Goodyear. “It’s taken so long that we can no longer locate the defective parts.”