Firestone Announces 3rd Tire Recall


Tuesday, February 20th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Firestone announced Tuesday a voluntary safety recall of approximately 98,500 tires after an analysis showed a design flaw has caused cracks in certain tires.

Most of the recalled P205/55R16 Firehawk GTA-02 tires are fitted on the 2000 and 2001 models of the Nissan Altima SE.

Firestone said it was not aware of any accidents, injuries or lawsuits related to the tires.

A company analysis of tires consumers brought back for adjustments determined that overly wide steel belts could lead to cracking on their surface.

While Firestone said its tests did not cause tread belts to detach, the company concluded that more adjustments may be needed.

``Even though extensive testing shows these tires continue to perform adequately once the crack appears, we believe the safety recall is appropriate based on the frequency with which this cracking may occur and the fact that the crack starts on the inside shoulder of the tire and is not obvious to the driver,'' said John Lampe, president, chairman and CEO of Bridgestone/Firestone.

The company said it will mail notices to customers by March 12 and will replace the tires at no cost with new Firehawk GTA-02 tires in which the design problem has been corrected. To ensure an adequate supply of replacements, Firestone also will make available its Bridgestone Potenza RE92 and Turanza EL41 tires, which have been approved by Nissan.

It was Bridgestone's third recall since last August, when the tiremaker recalled 6.5 million ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tires linked to dozens of fatal wrecks. A second recall announced Jan. 2 was for 8,000 P265/70R16 Wilderness LE tires to ensure recovery of about 150 tires made last April 24 at Firestone's plant in Cuernavaca, Mexico. The company said those truck tires were built with contaminated rubber.

Firestone spokeswoman Christine Karbowiak said the company hopes the latest recall sends ``a very strong message that we are absolutely committed to customer safety and customer satisfaction.''

``We know we have a long way to go to develop that level of trust from the consumer again,'' she said.

The recalled Firehawk tires were made at Firestone's plant in Wilson, N.C., and fitted on an estimated 22,000 Altima SEs sold in the United States, Canada and Guam. The remainder were sold as replacement tires in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Trinidad. The company said the replacements could be fitted on a variety of vehicles, typically sedans.

The cracking prompted the company to change its design to make the belt narrower beginning last November.

``It's not unusual for tires to experience some cosmetic cracking, and that is what we initially saw in this situation,'' said Lampe, who ordered Tuesday's recall.

As Firestone continued to analyze tires brought back for adjustments, it found that extended use eventually could expose the steel belt, officials said.

The latest recall came one day after the company announced another round of management changes.

John McQuade, who manages Bridgestone's plant in Wilson, N.C., will become the corporation's new vice president of manufacturing operations, replacing the retiring Barry Kadechuk.

Two new plant managers also were named. The Wilson operation will be headed by Harry McMillan, the manager of Firestone's Decatur, Ill., plant. The Decatur job will be filled by Dennis Ringgenberg, the plant's production manager.

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For information about the nearest authorized Firestone retailer, customers can call toll-free 1-800-465-1904.

On the Net:

Bridgestone/Firestone: http://www.bridgestone-firestone.com

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: http://www.nhtsa.gov