TOKYO (AP) â€” Sales of Firestone replacement tires for cars and light trucks fell about 40 percent in the United States in September and October compared with a year earlier, the president of Bridgestone Corp. said Friday.
The sales decline followed a massive recall of Firestone tires begun in August by its U.S. subsidiary, Bridgestone/Firestone, because of crashes in which its tires are under investigation.
Bridgestone president Yoichiro Kaizaki also told reporters the company had raised the expected cost of the recall by nearly 29 percent.
``Roughly speaking, we now expect recall costs to reach about $450 million, compared with our earlier estimate of $350 million,'' Kaizaki said.
Overall, Bridgestone/Firestone's sales of tires for passenger cars and light trucks posted a single-digit percentage drop, he said.
But Kaizaki offered no specific sales figures. He said the overall figure dropped less than the decline at Firestone because of increased sales of Bridgestone-brand and other non-Firestone brand tires.
Nashville-based Bridgestone/Firestone recalled 6.5 million ATX, ATXII and Wilderness AT tires in August because of problems with tread separation cited in crashes, mostly on Ford Explorers. U.S. regulators say Firestone tires are under investigation in at least 119 deaths in the United States.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a consumer advisory on an additional 1.4 million tires, and Bridgestone/Firestone agreed to also replace those tires at no cost for customers who ask.
Bridgestone/Firestone has replaced 5 million tires in the United States, about 77 percent of those subject to the recall, Kaizaki said Friday.
The company's investigation is still under way, executive vice president Tadakazu Harada said.
Bridgestone said it has found that the tire separations, which led to accidents, occur more when tire pressure is low, tire temperature is high and the vehicle is moving at a high speed.
The problem tires appeared to have been manufactured mostly at Bridgestone/Firestone's Decatur, Ill., plant in 1996.