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U.S. auto safety agency closes probe into Goodyear tires

The Goodyear logo is seen at a tire workshop in Caracas

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. auto safety agency said Friday it was closing an investigation it opened in 2017 into the safety of some Goodyear tires used on motor homes that have not been produced in nearly two decades.

Goodyear Tire & Rubber in June said it would recall 173,000 G159 tires size 275/70R22.5 tires used on recreational vehicles because of the potential for catastrophic tread separations.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had sought the recall in February, arguing G159 tires had higher failure rates that "occurred relatively early in the service life."

Goodyear said earlier it did not believe its tires were defective and questioned if any of those tires were still in use, noting they have not been produced since 2003.

NHTSA said in February that G159 tire defects were "at the center of 41 lawsuits involving 98 deaths and injuries filed between 1999 and 2016."

Goodyear said the NHTSA "inaccurately" overstated the number of incidents alleged.

"The recall action addresses the safety concern that led to the opening of this investigation," NHTSA said in its closing resume, adding that decision "does not constitute a finding by NHTSA that a safety-related defect does not exist in other model and size tires outside of the recall scope."

The NHTSA in February said it appeared Goodyear

was aware of a safety defect "as early 2002 while the tires

were in production but did not file a recall."

Goodyear said it was "not true" those tires failed earlier than others and NHTSA's letter reflected a misunderstanding of underlying data.

Goodyear argued RV manufacturers have the "primary role" in "recalling their vehicles to account for owner misuse."

NHTSA said Goodyear routinely obtained court orders forbidding release of tire information discovered in lawsuits. Goodyear said the agency "cannot reasonably claim it was unaware" of incidents involving the tire before 2017 citing fatal incident reports in a NHTSA database.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Jason Neely)