WASHINGTON (AP) _ Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. agreed Thursday to recall 3.5 million more Wilderness AT tires mounted on sport utility vehicles.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ordered the tire maker to replace the tires after a 1 1/2-year investigation.
The recall involves the P235/75R15 and P255/70R16 Wilderness AT tires manufactured before 1998 that were supplied as original equipment to Ford Motor Co. or sold as replacement tires for other SUV brands.
Firestone says only about 768,000 of the tires are still on the market. Many of the tires have already been replaced by the owners or as part of a replacement plan announced in May by Ford in response to the August 2000 recall of 6.5 million Bridgestone/Firestone tires.
``We do not agree with NHTSA's findings,'' Bridgestone/Firestone CEO John Lampe said in a statement. ``Our testing and science show our tires perform extremely well. However, we have decided that it is in the best interest of our company, our employees, our dealers and our customers if we replace the limited number of tires in question and close this chapter in the company's history.''
Most of the tires are original equipment on the Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer. The recall does not apply to other sizes of Wilderness AT tires or those supplied to other manufacturers as original equipment.
In a statement, NHTSA said those tires that are not involved have different design features and have not experienced as many tread separations.
NHTSA has collected thousands of complaints involving Firestone tires. The agency announced Thursday that it has discovered 72 more fatalities connected to Firestone tire failures, raising the total to 275.
Twenty-five of those deaths and about 50 injuries involve the newly recalled tires.
Last summer Bridgestone/Firestone rejected NHTSA's request to expand it's original recall of 6.5 million ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tires, saying it was prepared to go to court to prove the tires were safe.
``We are pleased that Firestone has taken this approach in lieu of lengthy court proceedings, moving us quickly to a safe solution,'' NHTSA Administrator Jeffrey Runge said in a statement.