Ford investigating Firestone tires


Thursday, August 3rd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


WASHINGTON (AP) -- A Ford Motor Co. spokesman said Thursday the company is reviewing the safety of Firestone tires after reports linking the tires to accidents, many involving Ford Explorers, in which 21 people have died.

"We'll take action as soon as we know what to do," Ford spokesman Ken Zino. "If there is a problem, we'll do what's right for the customer."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating reports that Firestone ATX, ATX II and Wilderness tires, often used on new pickups and sport utility vehicles, peeled off their casings. The agency has received 193 reports of the problem, including reports of 21 deaths.

NHTSA safety investigations can lead to manufacturer recalls.

Ford could recall its vehicles to replace the tires, made by Firestone's parent company, Nashville, Tenn.-based Bridgestone/Firestone.

"Ford would also consider doing something else besides a recall," Zino said.

"I can envision no response to a problem, if there is one, that doesn't involve working closely with Bridgestone/Firestone," Zino
said. "I think it's extremely unlikely that this long-standing supplier would not work closely with us."

Ford has been investigating reported problems with the tires since May, company spokeswoman Jerree Martin said.

Bridgestone/Firestone has encouraged owners go to a Firestone Tire and Service Center for a free inspection, and maintains that the tires are "among the safest tires on the road today."

Two Florida families sued Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone on July 24, alleging tire treads on their Ford Explorers separated and
caused fatal accidents. Similar suits concerning the tires have been filed since 1996.

The Public Citizen watchdog group in Washington and attorneys involved in litigation with Bridgestone/Firestone and Ford allege 30 deaths nationwide have been caused by tire separation.

The tires have been original equipment on Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Nissan and Subaru vehicles for several years, but most
accidents reported to the traffic safety agency have involved the Ford Explorer.

According to NHTSA, 28 of the 193 reports of tread separation noted that the tire remained inflated, sometimes even after a crash. In two cases, the tire tread wrapped around the rear axle and locked up the wheels.

Tread failure was reported at a speed of 20 mph, but 55 mpg to 75 mph was typical. Some of use, the agency's records show.

Most of the complaints came from Texas, the South and the Southwest. Heat can affect tire tread bonding and may be associated with an increased rate of tread separation.

Ford has replaced Firestone tires for free on vehicles sold in Venezuela, Ecuador, Thailand, Malaysia, Colombia and Saudi Arabia after tires failed in those countries.

Though not accepting blame, Ford said it swapped tires "as a customer satisfaction issue." It has not made a decision on replacing tires for U.S. customers.

Bridgestone/Firestone's list of vehicles with Firestone ATX, ATX II and Wilderness tires as factory equipment includes Ford F-150
and Ranger pickups, Expedition and Explorer; Chevrolet and GMC full-size pickups; Chevrolet, GMC and Cadillac full-size SUVs;
Nissan Frontier pickup and Pathfinder SUV; Toyota Tacoma pickup and 4Runner SUV; and Subaru Outback.
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On the Net:Bridgestone/Firestone: http://www.bridgestone-firestone.com

Ford Motor Co.: http://www.ford.com

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