While this seems to be a reasonable question to those who do not believe it is possible for good quality products to be made in China, I could just as easily ask: How good are the tires made in Japan? or Brazil? or France? What about tires made in South Carolina? or Tennessee? or Nova Scotia? Etc.?
Some research indicated that Bridgestone, Michelin and Goodyear produce tires in more than 50 countries. Each of these companies has production in China. With more than 340 tire plants involved worldwide, just how reasonable is it to think that one country has cornered the market on poor quality?
Quality is a function of corporate philosophy not geography. Having worked as both a trainer and quality auditor in the tire industry, I can say from personal observation that I have never seen a situation where the poor quality in a product or process could have the root cause traced to the geographic location. I have also done detailed examination of tires made by a smaller manufacturer in China and found that they met all the performance requirements required for sale in the USA.
All tires sold for use on public highways in the US are required to be certified by the manufacturer to be capable of meeting the quality and safety requirements as published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration which is a part of the US Department of Transportation. These requirements are very detailed and cover many test and conditions all tires must meet at a minimum. The penalty for selling a tire that does not meet these requirements is very significant. You can read the details if you are so inclined, with sections 109, 110, 119, 120, 138 and 139 being most appropriate for those interested in tires.
TO GIVE YOU AN IDEA of how seriously these quality standards are taken by a company with a real quality philosophy, I would like to give you an example. Before I retired, one of my primary duties was to investigate and determine the real reason certain tires failed to deliver the service expected by the customer. I would be asked to basically do an autopsy and issue a detailed engineering report with supporting documentation such as photos and lab data when appropriate. My report had to be sufficiently detailed and documented to be able to satisfy other engineers and technical authorities that my conclusion were accepted as the most likely reason and that no questions remained.
During one such examination, I discovered that there had been a problem during manufacturing of one specific size and type tire. I was able to trace the root cause to the use of one container of materials that had been mislabeled and incorrectly used in regular production tires. The result of this mix-up was that some of the rubber did not provide the proper level of adhesion, which resulted in part of the tire not properly curing. As part of the investigation I was able to determine that 149 tires had been made with this improper material. I located an identification mark on the subject tires which would have allowed more than 95 percent of the 149 tires to be identified and replaced. The corporate head of quality decided that we needed to be 100 percent certain that no tires remained in the hands of the public, so he ordered the entire week’s production of that size and type tire be recalled and replaced. This cost the company more than 3,500 tires to be replaced at no cost to the customers and all 3,500 tires were ordered scrapped just to be sure not a single tire with the problem remained on the highway. You may be interested to know that the tires were not manufactured in the USA and not all 149 would have been sold in the USA, but the commitment to quality was sufficient to make this decision a relatively easy one.
Now you may ask how do you find out which tire companies have this kind of commitment to quality. One thing you could do is to contact the tire manufacturer and ask if they are ISO certified to quality standards such as the older QS9000 standard or more current TS16949.
Meeting this standard is a requirement of the “Detroit Big Three” and I believe some large heavy truck manufacturers. I also believe that if a company supplies tires under these standards they are more likely to apply most of the requirements to all their production.
NOTE These Quality Standards are in addition to the DOT Regulations.
If the tire you are considering is made by a company that does not supply to “Detroit” you will have to do some other investigation. You can search for information on recalls here.
If you have a tire failure that is not attributable to overload, under-inflation, puncture or road hazard you should file a report here
If people do not file a report the DOT has no way of knowing that a tire failed to meet the requirements.