A series of tire failures similar to the ones that have plagued Bridgestone/Firestone also have afflicted light-truck tires manufactured by Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., killing at least eight people but so far drawing little attention from federal safety regulators.
The Goodyear tire failures involve 16-inch Load Range E tires manufactured mainly for commercial vehicles trailers, passenger vans and large sport-utility vehicles.
Goodyear became aware of what one of its own engineers labeled an "alarming" problem with the tires five years ago and made a design change to make the tires stronger.
But it did not recall the older tires, millions of which are still on the road, including the popular Goodyear Wrangler AT and HT.
The Akron, Ohio-based tire maker has quietly settled several of at least 20 lawsuits resulting from the crashes. Settlement amounts and company documents turned over in these cases have been kept secret, a move that has drawn the ire of consumer groups and plaintiffs attorneys.
The suits blame tread separation, virtually identical to the problems experienced by Firestone, whose tires fitted on Ford Explorers have been linked to more than 150 deaths and more than 500 injuries worldwide.
The Goodyear tire failures are the latest example of how deadly crashes caused by tread separations have transcended the Firestone-Ford Explorer case and are bedeviling the entire tire industry. In addition to the Firestone recall, Continental-General announced last month that it will replace 160,000 tires, mostly mounted on 1998 and 1999 Lincoln Navigators, because the tread showed a tendency to separate. Other large tire makers are also grappling with the problem.
While the number of deaths and injuries related to Goodyear's light-truck tires is relatively small, attorneys say no one really knows how many casualties have resulted from failure of Goodyear's light-truck tires because there has been virtually no publicity about them.