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USA TODAY:NHTSA wants tires added to recall Firestone must respond by Friday

USA Today reported that Federal safety officials have told Bridgestone/Firestone that it should recall millions more tires as potentially unsafe and have given the tiremaker until Friday to respond.

The tiremaker could agree, triggering its second recall in a year. Or it could balk and face a fight with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

''We did meet with NHTSA last week. We continue to meet. A decision is imminent,'' tire company spokeswoman Jill Bratina said late Wednesday. ''We have been very clear to Congress and the public about evidence that shows our tires . . . are safe.''

Bridgestone/Firestone, under pressure from Ford Motor, recalled 14.4 million ATX and Wilderness AT tires Aug. 9. Ford's analysis of Bridgestone/Firestone data showed treads were separating at alarming rates. About 6.5 million of the tires were still in service, most on Ford's Explorer sport-utility vehicle.

In an extraordinary move, Ford said May 22 that it would replace an additional 13 million Wilderness AT tires. Ford said continuing analysis showed unusually high rates of tread separation, despite Bridgestone/Firestone denials.

''This is a multimillion-dollar drama playing out in front of us,'' said Michael Brown, an attorney specializing in government recalls. ''The pressure on Firestone to resist NHTSA is very high, because to go along has considerable financial implications on lawsuits, including one by Ford.'' Brown said that ''it would be very hard for any judge to ignore it if NHTSA has come in with this finding'' that millions of Firestones are potentially unsafe.

''This is a tough thing to swallow, in dollars and reputation,'' he said.

Bridgestone/Firestone said last month that it expected the August recall to cost $1.3 billion. Ford said its cost for that recall and the replacement program is $2.7 billion.