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Ford Adjusts List of Acceptable Replacement Tires, While Losing Market Share to Foreign Rivals

Ford Motor Company might take some of the tires off its list of acceptable replacements in its recall of 13 million Firestone tires as early as this week, Congressional sources tell Newsweek in the current issue.

Last week, Louisiana Congressman Billy Tauzin charged that Ford was replacing the suspect tires on its Explorer with tires from other manufacturers that had an even worse safety record. Ford CEO Jacques Nasser promised to look into the allegations but warned, "Let's not scare the American public."

The report is part of a package in the July 2 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands Monday, June 25) about the continued appeal of SUVs despite soaring gas prices, congressional investigations, global warming and scary headlines about flipping Ford Explorers.

SUVs are selling at a record rate-up a remarkable 5.6 percent this year in a slowing economy that has depressed overall auto sales by more than 5 percent. But Detroit automakers, who invented the SUV and have long dominated the market, are now losing market share to sleeker Japanese and posher German imports, reports Detroit Bureau Chief Keith Naughton.

No Detroit automaker is suffering more than Ford, whose embattled Explorer has seen sales plunge 21 percent in addition to receiving scrutiny in last week's congressional hearings. "I'm losing a lot of sleep over what everyone in the company is going through," Chairman William Clay Ford Jr. tells Newsweek.

Detroit's share of the SUV market has shrunk from 81 percent five years ago to just 66 percent now. Total sales of American-made SUVs are down 2.2 percent this year, and it takes discounts of up to $2,400 to move once-hot models from GM, Ford and Chrysler. Lincoln Navigator sales are off 18.3 percent this year and Jeep Cherokee sales are down 19 percent, Naughton reports.