Time to be aware of counterfeit tires
If you sell a fake Rolex watch or Louis Vuitton handbag, you’re committing a crime. If you sell a set of counterfeit tires, you’re not just committing a crime, you’re putting someone’s life at risk. Whether it’s deliberate or an oversight, that’s a decision that could come back to haunt you.
With a recent major court case cracking down on the production and sale of counterfeit Toyo tires in the U.S., it seemed like a good time to take a close look at the fakes and the risks associated with them.
Big wins for tire brands against fakers
But first, who’s been counterfeiting? Well, in late October the U.S. District Court in Nevada ruled in favor of Toyo Tires’ injunction against a Chinese company, Kabushikiki Kaisha Tokyo Nihoon Rubber Corporation and its associated business, Japan Toyomoto Tire Corporation. The Court found Toyomoto had “piggybacked off of Toyo’s success” and was selling fake Toyo tires.
“Toyomoto markets its counterfeit products on various deceptively named websites, passes itself off as being a Japan-based company, and even exhibits its products at SEMA, a trade show that drew 60,000 buyers and that Toyo also attended,” the ruling stated.
Toyo was also awarded $300,000 in damages.
The Court’s decision came just a year after a counterfeit line of Pegasus Advanta SUV tires were identified when Consumer Reports subjected a range of tires bought online to testing and found they fell well short of industry standards.
Why does it matter if the tires are fakes?
Some motorists might feel like a cheap deal on tires is worth it, even if the product they buy is not genuine. They’re taking a huge risk with not just their own lives, but those of their loved ones and other road users. It’s alarming to note that the only reason the Pegasus Advanta tires were identified as fakes was thanks to Consumer Report’s testing. In the event fake tires are identified or somehow recalled, customers who bought fake tires will discover they don’t have any avenue to demand replacement tires as they would if the genuine article were recalled.
But for dealers, the main point is that selling counterfeit tires—much like selling any counterfeit product—is illegal. The law, generally says that any person caught distributing or manufacturing counterfeit goods could face severe legal penalties, including five to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $500,000 (it could actually be worse than that, depending on circumstances).
How to make sure your tires are genuine
The Pegasus Advanta fakes were discovered after Consumer Reports bought ten online from a website called Tires Easy.
Tires Easy had bought the tires from Dallas-based importer, Economy Tire, who had imported a small container of 400 to 500 tires. The manufacturer, who is ultimately responsible for the fake tires, could not be identified. To avoid counterfeit tires finding their way into your shop, always go through your known reputable distributors. And always check the information on the tires when you take delivery.
It’s far more likely your contact with counterfeit tires will be through customers coming into your shop with them already on their vehicles. Some fake Pegasus Advantas are likely still on cars right now. If a customer comes in with a set showing a manufacturer code of “3E” and the final digits of “12” or higher, they’re fakes.
Counterfeit tires often fail on air pressure and feature cracking, bulging, blistering, rippling in the sidewall or abnormal treadwear patterns. Chances are you’ll know them when you see them when the customer comes in looking for replacements.
What do I do if I suspect tires are counterfeit?
If a customer believes they have bought counterfeit tires (or you think you might have some among your stock) then encourage them to register the complaint with the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center.
If you or your customers identify any abnormalities in the tires, it’s best to file a safety complaint with the NHTSA through the safercar.gov website.