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8 dead, 69 hurt—Goodyear finally recalls G159 tires

LeRoy Haeger and his family were headed down Arizona’s I-10 bound for New Mexico in their motorhome. The family’s quiet ride turned anything but when the rig’s right steer tire blew, blasting the motorhome over an embankment, stopping on its side. The family’s Great Dane was ejected through the windshield. LeRoy had to be cut out from under the steering column. It all happened in 2003—nearly two decades ago—when the rig’s Goodyear G159 tire blew out. Only now, with at least 8 people dead and 69 more injured in incidents involving G159 tires, has the manufacturer recalled them. What is going on?

Company cover-up

If it all seems a bit odd that Goodyear takes so long getting around to a recall, consider this. The company has not marketed G159 tires in 19 years—about the time of the Haeger tragedy. But it’s hardly the only thing that’s been going on in Goodyear’s G159 world.

Two years after the Haeger’s motorhome flew off the pavement, the family filed suit against Goodyear, alleging the tire company’s culpability in the accident. Before reaching the courtroom in 2010, Goodyear settled with the family. Matter closed? Hardly!

A year or so later, the attorney who had represented the Haegers in the case spotted an article about Goodyear’s G159 tires. That article indicated that Goodyear had done specific testing on those tires. Goodyear had information in its possession that the family had asked for prior to settlement, and yet was never provided to them.

Back to court the two parties went. The family asked that Goodyear be punished for allegedly committing fraud by refusing to disclose the testing information in discovery. The judge agreed, but couldn’t whack the tire company with monetary sanctions as the case had already been settled. Instead, the court ruled Goodyear should pay the Haeger family’s legal expenses for all costs for the time after their attorney had requested the never-provided records, to the tune of more than $2 million dollars. Goodyear appealed; an appeals court agreed with the original ruling. Goodyear appealed again to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that Goodyear couldn’t be held liable for the whole amount, and remanded the case back to the lower court, which awarded $520,000 for the cover-up.

Feds de-cloak files

Certainly the Haegers were not alone in coming to grief while equipped with a Goodyear G159 tire. CAS, a consumer interest group, said it was aware of at least 40 legal cases against the tire company involving G159 tires in a decade—that in 2018. CAS indicated that many of those cases had been settled—and cloaked in the seal of confidentiality—just as the Haeger’s case had been. And so it went until 2018.

In 2018 the federal watchdog, NHTSA (the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration) was able to de-cloak some of those secrets under court order. At that time, NHTSA had also received 10 complaints of tire failure from users, two involving crashes. Goodyear provided the agency with information about nine more failures, including 13 injuries and one death. NHTSA then stated, “The number of these claims suggests that the failures may stem from a safety-related defect.”

Stop-and-go OK, but freeway use disastrous

What kind of defect? The tires in question were originally designed for use on local delivery trucks, and then expanded to motorhome use. Consumer groups and lawsuits allege that the tires might be great for stop-and-go delivery trucks. Fitting them on motorhomes and turning them out onto interstates was a recipe for disaster. When the tires got hot on the highway, they were more likely to separate with disastrous consequences.

NHTSA had the authority to order a recall, but for reasons not revealed, waited until Goodyear voluntarily recalled the tires itself. In a news release, the feds said they “pressured” Goodyear to file the recall. Why the long delay? In a statement released by Goodyear, the company says, “This tire hasn’t been made since 2003, it consistently met Goodyear’s demanding safety standards, and we have not received an injury claim related to the tire’s use on a Class A motorhome in more than 14 years.”

Could it be that Goodyear hoped that by dragging its feet as long as possible it would benefit them? Essentially, that there would be very few G159s that it would need to make good on in a recall? Accepted wisdom suggests that tires on RVs don’t wear out with the typical limited mileage put on them, rather, they “date out” or “age out.” If most were replaced within five to seven years of purchase, the bulk of these tires would have been off the road by 2010. Interestingly, Consumer Reports said it found an online advertisement in April 2021 for a late 1990s Fleetwood American Tradition Class A motorhome—touting its Goodyear G159 tires.

Will Goodyear walk away unscathed?

How many of the original 173,000 G159 tires are still “out there” is a complete unknown. Goodyear’s recall move will mean if you have any, you can get new replacement tires for your rig. If you’ve got some stashed in the barn, and aren’t presently using them, Goodyear will pay a bounty of $500. More on that here.

Is Goodyear going to walk away, largely untouched by this issue? Not necessarily. There may be a federal investigation in the works. Can you say, “GMC ignition switch cover-up?” We’ll bring you more details in a future story.

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Jerry W Coleman
21 days ago

I remember driving across southern Arizona on I-10 in 40 mph winds. The highway signs said in case of a dust storm, if you can’t see the road, pull completely off the highway. There were very narrow shoulders and a drop off outside of those. There was no way you could pull off of that highway in a motor home without turning over. I just prayed I didn’t have a blowout and the dust didn’t pick up. Luckily neither happened.

Bob p
22 days ago

I had the G159 tires on my ‘99 Bounder and blew one out for no apparent reason. Pressures had been checked, nothing could be found that might’ve caused the blow out. Luckily it was an outside dual and just caused a 3 hr wait on I 75 in GA for a repair truck. At the time I knew nothing of this issue and the tire was simply discarded, after reading about these tires I thank God for his protection as it could’ve been a steer tire causing a wreck.

Charles Yaker
22 days ago

The problem with this article is the same as the problem we flesh and blood persons have with all corporate persons. They aren’t persons. flesh and blood persons working for corporations are not held responsible for their decisions and can kill indiscriminately. The corporations pays the fine if any. Same thing happened with the Chevy Switches and Boeing planes.

Dennis G.
22 days ago

Guess I should have kept my G159 tires in storage (instead of scrapping them tongue-in-cheek), after replacing them in 2018. Could have made a few dollars. With that said, our G159 tires held up well, and had been stored in a dark garage for years, on the coach. Maybe that is what saved them.

Ron L.
22 days ago

Didn’t Goodyear also have another motorhome tire that would cup on the outside edge after having 20k to 30k miles on them…. seems to me they were labeled G605 or something like that. I know I had them on my 2008 Safari Simba and the front tires did exactly that.

Roger Marble
22 days ago

NHTSA had also received 10 complaints of tire failure from users,” Don’t RV owners and dealers bear some responsibility for not replacing tires that have “aged out”? From NHTSA’s viewpoint in 2018, there had only been 10 failures. DOT does not have unlimited funds to look to see if there had been any tire failures. Don’t forget RVs are a relatively small segment of the automotive market and tires are a smaller sub-set. I am offering no excuse for Goodyear’s failure to report the problems to NHTSA as I believe that is one responsibility of tire companies. I also believe it is also the responsibility of vehicle manufacturers to report tire failures to NHTSA. How many failures did the RV company know about yet failed to notify NHTSA? Don’t forget the RV manufacturer is responsible for selecting tires for application on the vehicles they make. If you follow any RV Forum on the internet you can find posts on tire failures but I never recall reading about anyone notifying NHTSA.

Chris
22 days ago

Another reason I stick with Michelins..until Russ and Tina find something on them, which I hope they won’t.

Roger Marble
22 days ago
Reply to  Chris

Anyone can check to see if their tires have had a recall, Michelin included. Just enter your full DOT serial for each tire you have here:

https://recallinfo.ustires.org/

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