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Continental General Tire May Have Understated Failures, Report Says

October 04, 2000|From Times Wire Services

Continental General Tire Inc. may have understated the extent of a tire failure problem similar to that of Firestone, which recalled 6.5 million tires for safety concerns, according to a published report.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation in March 1993 after receiving five reports of fatal accidents involving General Tire models TG52S, Ameri-Way and Ameri-Tech.

But since the investigation was closed in July 1993 at least 13 people died in accidents involving one of the tires under scrutiny. Among the alleged understatements, the paper, citing court records and public documents, said the tire company failed to tell federal investigators, as ordered, about complaints passed along by a major tire distributor concerning failed tires.

Continental, in a statement to the paper, denied it acted improperly, and said it cooperated fully with government requests. "NHTSA's conclusion, that there was no defect trend found in the tires, concurred with our own internal data," the company said.

In August, Firestone, a unit of Japan's Bridgestone Corp. recalled 6.5 million tires because of fears they could cause deadly accidents. U.S. regulators have received reports of 101 deaths stemming from the accidents. Most of the tires are on Ford Motor Co. Explorer sport-utility vehicles.

In another development, Venezuelan victims of accidents involving Ford vehicles and Bridgestone/Firestone tires have filed or are in the process of filing 35 civil suits against the companies in a Florida federal court, a Miami lawyer handling the cases said Tuesday.

Attorney Victor Diaz said the victims, many of them relatives of people who died in accidents, are seeking punitive as well as compensatory damages. He declined to say how much his clients were seeking.

Ford spokesman Ricardo Tinoco said the auto maker wants to see what the accusations are before responding. Firestone officials did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

In Caracas, a group of 50 victims were to discuss compensation with attorneys from Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone on Wednesday. Samuel Ruh, head of the Venezuelan consumer protection agency had ordered the talks.

The agency, known as Indecu, wants the companies to compensate a total of 104 victims for material damages resulting from deaths, injuries and damage to vehicles, Ruh said.

Tread separation, blowouts and rollover crashes involving vehicles with Firestone tires have been linked to 46 deaths in Venezuela.

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