The tire industry maintains it cares about its customers. It now has a chance to prove it.
Thirty years ago the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration imposed a tire registration law on the industry, requiring a record of all tires sold so consumers could be contacted in the event of a recall. Tire manufacturers and dealers hated it: government interference, exorbitant costs, bureaucratic paperwork, etc., etc.
It took a decade of lobbying, mainly by the former National Tire Dealers and Retreaders Association's efforts, but in 1982 Congress changed the rule. For replacement tires, independent tire dealers no longer were required to document the sale and send the consumer information to the tire manufacturers. Instead, all they had to do was hand out registration cards-it was up to the tire buyer to fill out and mail them.
The NTDRA promised to promote the registration at the point of sale and through a consumer awareness campaign in the media. Fast-forward another 20 years to the Firestone-Ford Explorer disaster. Through the auto maker's records, it hasn't been a big problem to contact consumers about the recall; mostly, the Explorers still had OE tires. But the recall has revealed, at least anecdotally, that many tire dealers aren't passing out the forms.
Why haven't they complied? Ignorance of the law is one reason given; zero enforcement by a NHTSA that has had its staff gutted by deregulation over the years is another. And then there are dealers who just flout the regulation-no one is checking up on them, anyway.
In this age of computerization, how hard would it be to capture the information on tire buyers needed to facilitate a recall? Tire dealers should take advantage of modern technology, if they really are as concerned about their customers as they say they are.