Alternative Vehicles Gain Popularity, But Skirt Regulations

Reprinted from The Safety Record, V5, I4, July / August 2008

STUEBENVILLE, OHIO -Don't bother trying to buy a three-wheeled, two-passenger vehicle off the dealer's lot. Motorists who want to get their hands on Wildfire Motors' WF650-C will have to plunk down the full $7,064 purchase price in advance, and wait three months for delivery. As gas prices rise, consumers are turning to high-mileage alternative vehicles, such as three-wheeled motorcycles or mini trucks or small electric passenger vehicles in increasing numbers. They are marketed as "cars" or "trucks" with most of the capabilities of a passenger vehicle, but they are built to safety standards far below those required of traditional passenger cars and light trucks.

Ohio Importer Recalls Six Million Chinese Tire Stem Valves As NHTSA Opens Probe into 30 Million More

OXFORD, NORTH CAROLINA -- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating Chinese-made replacement tire valve stems sold by Dill Air Controls for potential defects, while an Ohio importer of the product recalls six million valve stems made by the same company, because of cracks that can occur in as little as six months.

Dill has acknowledged that 30 million of the suspect and hard-to track replacement valves may be on shelves of tire retailers and distributors and on vehicles. And the scope of the problem is likely to expand - more recent evidence has emerged that appears to show that defective valve stems were also used as original equipment on some 2007 model year vehicles.

Senate Holds Hearing on Roof Strength; NHTSA Grilled on Pre-emption

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The chairman of the Senate Consumer Affairs, Insurance and Automotive sub-committee has urged the Secretary of Transportation to extend the July 1 deadline for a final roof crush rule and to drop the pre-emption clause from the regulation.

After Long Delay, NHTSA Issues Advisory Addressing Tire Aging

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Eight years after the Explorer/Firestone rollovers pushed the problems of tire aging to the fore, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued its first consumer advisory that addressed the dangers of aged tires.

On June 2, NHTSA released the advisory as a kick-off the summer driving season. The all-purpose warning for motorists to check their tires - including the spare - for signs of wear, under-inflation and age, was an important public acknowledgement of a safety hazard the agency has long understood. While NHTSA's Consumer Advisory did not define any tire age limit, it did refer to vehicle and tire makers age recommendations.

Fatal Rollover Prompts Probe into Chinese-Made Tire Valve Stems: Safety Groups Urge Consumers to Have Tires Checked

June 19: Dill Air Controls added a bulletin to their website with instructions for inspecting valve stems.

ORLANDO, FLA -- Safety advocates are urging motorists to inspect their valve stems for cracks and to check their tire pressure in the wake of one distributor's recall of defective valve stems made in China by Shanghai Baolong Industries Co. and a federal probe into premature cracking prompted by a fatal rollover crash.

As many as 30 million replacement rubber valves stems, imported to the U.S. from China beginning in August 2006, can crack prematurely, causing tires to lose air. Air loss at highway speeds may result in a tire failure and loss-of-control crash. (The valve stem is a rubber tube with a metal valve used to inflate the tire with air.)

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