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Published: Wednesday, 7/11/2007

Cooper says tires made for it in China not involved in recall

BY MARK REITER
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

FINDLAY - Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. said it is complying with a request from federal highway safety officials to provide information about tires manufactured by a Chinese company that are being recalled for an alleged safety defect.

However, tires that Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co. once made for Cooper Tire are not involved in the recall, a company spokesman said.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has ordered Foreign Tire Sales Inc., of Union, N.J., to recall as many as 450,000 tires after the company said an unknown number of pickup truck and sport-utility-vehicle radials from Hangzhou Zhongce could have tread separation.

The importer said the light truck radials were made without a safety feature, called a gum strip, that helps bind the plies of a tire to each other.

Hangzhou Zhongce has denied that the tires were faulty and says its tires met U.S. safety standards and Foreign Tire Sales' specifications. The company has hinted that the recall might be an effort by foreign competitors to gain an advantage in a commercial dispute.

Last year, Cooper Tire ended a contract with Hangzhou Zhongee to manufacture tires to be imported to the United States. When the deal was announced in 2003, Cooper said the Chinese company would supply 250,000 to 350,000 radial medium truck tires a year.

However, spokesman Patricia Brown for the Findlay firm said the company has not purchased the type of tires involved in the recall:

"We have no affiliation with those types of tires."

Tires once produced by Hang-

zhou are being made at a factory near Shanghai that Cooper built with Kenda Rubber Industrial Co., of Taiwan, she said.

The company also has a 51 percent stake in Cooper Chengshan (Shandong) Passenger Tire Ltd. and Cooper Chengshan (Shandong) Tire Co. Ltd., which makes commercial truck tires in China.

Standard and Poor's analyst Efraim Levy said he doesn't anticipate the attention surrounding the recall having an material impact on sales for Cooper Tire, in part because consumers usually don't pay attention to the source of the products.

Contact Mark Reiter at:

markreiter@theblade.com

or 419-724-6096



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