Facts and Data Prove Wilderness AT Tires Safe; Firestone Continues Push For Explorer Examination

    NASHVILLE, Tenn.--July 19, 2001-- Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. (BFS) today reaffirmed the safety of its Wilderness AT tires, informing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that the facts and the data do not support an agency action that could result in an expanded recall of any Wilderness AT tires, including those equipped primarily on Ford Explorers.
    "We will do everything in our power to ensure the safety of the driving public. If one of our tires might jeopardize that safety, then we'll take it off the road. We've done it before and, if it becomes necessary, we'll do it again. But, that is simply not the case here," said John Lampe, Chairman, CEO and President of Bridgestone/Firestone.
    To date, NHTSA has failed to make its analysis available to BFS for the company to review in any meaningful way. BFS's own extensive examination and evaluation of its tires, competitor tires and the Ford Explorer clearly show that the Wilderness AT tires are safe and that further action against the tires is unnecessary and counterproductive. As this matter moves forward, the company will use every available step in the process to prove the safety of its tires, including public hearings, and if necessary, pursuing this issue in the courts.
    "We appreciate NHTSA's diligence on this issue, but we strongly disagree with any suggestion that a recall action might be warranted and believe any such action could have potentially serious consequences for the driving public and the entire tire industry," said Lampe, referring to the testing that shows the Firestone tires perform well within industry levels on all tests. "This much is clear. Our tires are safe. And, we will use every opportunity available to us to make that point."
    "If the real issue at hand is the safety of the driving public -- and we believe it is -- then taking more of our tires off the road is not the solution. It doesn't solve the real problem: the vehicle," Lampe added. "We now know this to be a fact: you can take every Firestone tire off every Explorer and the rollovers and fatal accidents will continue. We've seen it in Venezuela, and we are now seeing it in the U.S."

    Among the points the company cites in support of its position:

    Wilderness ATs are comparable to competitors' tires. Exhaustive
    tests show that across the board, Firestone tires perform the same
    as, if not better than, similar competitor tires that are
    currently being fitted to Ford vehicles, including Explorers. The
    tests conducted include: peel force, belt edge temperature tests,
    SAE high speed testing and holography/shearography.

    Wilderness AT tires have extremely low claims rates. A tire's
    performance and safety must be judged by a number of factors.
    Claims rates alone are not an accurate measure of a tire's
    performance. However, even if claims rates were to be used as a
    determinative factor, the claims history of Wilderness ATs shows
    that the tires are performing well in the field.

    A tread separation is not always a tire defect. Rather, tread
    separations can result from a number of different causal factors
    related to tire use. All tires, no matter what brand of
    manufacture, can experience tread separations, and some will. This
    can happen whether as a result of low inflation, improper repair,
    a road hazard that causes a slow leak, an impact break or a
    similar incident. It is one of the most common failure modes for
    any steel belted radial tire, regardless of brand.

    The vehicle must also be investigated. The very same Wilderness AT
    tire performs very differently on the Ford Explorer than it does
    on the Ford Ranger. At the same time similar Wilderness AT tires
    mounted on non-Ford vehicles perform at virtually flawless levels.
    In addition, published reports show that tread separations leading
    to rollovers and other accidents continue, no matter what brand
    tire is fitted on the vehicle. An investigation conducted by Dr.
    Dennis Guenther suggests certain models of the Ford Explorer are
    plagued by significant safety problems because of inherent flaws
    in its design.

    About Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.

    Nashville-based Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., is a subsidiary of Bridgestone Corporation, the world's largest tire and rubber company. Bridgestone/Firestone manufactures and markets Bridgestone, Firestone, Dayton and house and private brand tires. The company also produces Firestone air springs, roofing materials, synthetic rubber and industrial products. The company employs approximately 35,000 employees in North America. For further information, please visit our Web site at www.bridgestone-firestone.com.

EDITOR'S NOTE: There will be a conference call today at 4 p.m. EST.

    Conference telephone number:
    -- toll free 800/474-8920
    -- toll number 719/457-2727
    Confirmation Code: 482438
    Title: Bridgestone Firestone

    
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