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CNN Today

Tire Testing at Goodyear

Aired September 21, 2000 - 2:08 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Firestone says the recall has many customers questioning the company's commitment to safety. The recall has also raised awareness with many drivers about the condition of their tires.

CNN's Ed Garsten looks at the testing procedures one company uses to make sure its tires are safe.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED GARSTEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Goodyear says a combination of tests like these, and an elaborate data collection and monitoring system, are the reasons the tire company has had only two voluntary recalls in the last 10 years.

JAMES WHITLEY, V.P. SAFETY, GOODYEAR: There were no accidents, there were no deaths or anything, but we felt the data we had might affect the public, and we wanted to go ahead and do that.

GARSTEN (on camera): Goodyear says the Firestone situation may have two silver linings. One, consumers may now take better care of their tires; and two, the industry as a whole may be reexamining its quality control procedures.

(voice-over): That includes Goodyear. Like most tiremakers, new tires at Goodyear are designed on computers. It's also where they are first tested, even before a prototype tire is built.

DENNY DUBS, COMPUTER ENGINEER, GOODYEAR: We start with an initial design, and then predict a situation for the stresses in the tires. From there, we can do design changes, mold shape changes, geometry changes, material changes.

GARSTEN: Once prototypes are built, they're put through a variety of punishment to test handling and endurance.

JERRY BUENGER, ENGINEER, GOODYEAR: The information we gain from that is used in models to predict the tire's performance in various situations of cornering and handling on the vehicle.

GARSTEN: The high-speed test looks at a tire's performance at highway speeds. The test can be used to detect flaws that could produce tread separation, the problem that led to the massive recall of Firestone tires. JIM MICHEL, ENGINEER, GOODYEAR: We could take the tires up past their certification speed to find out how much speed it would take to actually separate the tread. While the tire is still safe, that would teach the designers a lot about the tire.

GARSTEN: Designers also learn a lot about the tire through a variety of road tests on the Goodyear track, where trained drivers put the tires through their paces in extreme situations.

Once the tire goes into production, each tire must pass individual inspections before it reaches the consumer. Then, Goodyear's safety committee tracks customer complaint and warranty claim data.

WHITLEY: If I determine that there is any data that looks like we may have a problem, I take it to that particular group. I give them my recommendation that that would include going to NHTSA, and suggesting we make a voluntary recall, we do that.

GARSTEN: Intense testing, combined with a rapid response to problems, he says, is the only way to keep unsafe tires off the road.

Ed Garsten, CNN, Akron, Ohio.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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