A federal agency is increasing its effort to understand and police, when necessary, imports of automotive aftermarket components, according to a speaker at the Specialty Equipment Market Association exhibition.
"The increasing pace of imports means increased scrutiny," said Daniel Smith, associate administrator for enforcement at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. He participated in a discussion on Oct. 29 during the trade show in Las Vegas.
The surge in imports the past several years — especially from China and other developing countries-has caught the attention of NHTSA and legislators. This situation came to a head earlier this year when tire importer Foreign Tire Sales Inc. notified NHTSA it suspected several hundred thousand light truck tires it had imported from Chinese tire maker Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co. Ltd. had a manufacturing anomaly that could lead to premature tire failure.
The situation proved problematic after FTS declared it didn´t have the financial resources to carry out a recall of 450,000 suspected tires, and Hangzhou Zhongce disputed FTS´s claims. Under U.S. law, the importer of a product is considered the manufacturer of record if the foreign manufacturer has no other representation in this country, Smith said.
Ultimately, FTS sought to recall 255,000 tires, although only 7,000 were returned and replaced.
As a result of this situation, NHTSA has revised its process for selecting the tires it tests randomly every year, making sure the mix more closely resembles the marketplace, which last year was more than 40 percent imports, he said.
In addition, an NHTSA delegation visited a recent tire expo in Shanghai, China, where its members met representatives of the Chinese government and Chinese tire companies to exchange information and ideas, Smith said. In particular, the delegation worked to make clear the legal obligations manufacturers have when exporting products to the U.S.
The delegation met with representatives of Hangzhou Zhongce and toured its facilities.