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Firestone Announces Replacement Program; NHTSA Ends Tire Investigation

    NASHVILLE, Tenn.--Oct. 4, 2001-- Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc. (BFS) advised the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today that it is replacing certain of its tires mounted on sport utility vehicles in response to an announcement by the agency of an initial determination regarding these tires. As a result of BFS' action, NHTSA informed BFS that it will close its investigation into Firestone tires which was opened in May 2000.
    Firestone will replace those P235/75R15 and P255/70R16 Wilderness AT tires produced before May 1998 that are still in use on sport utility vehicles. Firestone's replacement program applies to tires installed as original equipment on certain 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1998 Ford Explorers and Mercury Mountaineers, as well as tires purchased in the replacement market for Ford, Mercury and other sport utility vehicles.
    Commenting on the agency's initial determination, John T. Lampe, chairman, CEO and president of BFS said, "We do not agree with NHTSA's findings. Our testing and science show our tires perform extremely well. However, we have decided that it is in the best interest of our company, our employees, our dealers and our customers if we replace the limited number of tires in question and close this chapter in the company's history."
    "We recognize that a lengthy confrontation with NHTSA would continue to bring into question the quality of our products and delay our on-going work of rebuilding the company. As I said when I became CEO nearly a year ago, 'I believe in this company. I believe in our dealers. I believe in our people. And I believe in our products.' While this was a very hard decision for us to make, I believe now is the time for us to move forward," Lampe continued.
    The engineering analysis, the step before the initial determination and the study upon which it is based, included almost 48 million tires at the time it was opened. NHTSA's action today excludes Wilderness AT tires fitted as original equipment on other sport utility vehicles, such as those manufactured by General Motors and Toyota. The company estimates that about 768,000 of the affected SUV tires were in the market prior to Ford's replacement program with about 700,000 of that number on Explorers and Mountaineers.
    When mounted on pickup trucks, the tires that are the subject of the field action announced today have demonstrated and continue to demonstrate a solid record of performance and durability. The company is aware, however, that the agency's initial determination may cause concern and confusion among drivers of those pickup trucks with these same tires. In order to address those concerns and alleviate any confusion, Firestone will replace any P235/75R15 and P255/70R16 Wilderness AT tires produced before May 1998 that are still used on a pickup truck free of charge at the customer's request. Firestone's dealers and company-owned stores will support this pickup truck customer satisfaction program on the same basis as the SUV field action.
    Tires which are subject to the replacement program and which qualify for the pickup truck program are Wilderness AT P235/75R15 and P255/70R16 with DOT numbers ending in "4," "5," "6," or "7." In addition, these tires with the last three digits of the DOT numbers shown as 018 through 188 are also included in the field action and pickup truck program. The company's field action and pickup truck program are available to consumers through January 31, 2002. Consumers with questions about whether their tires are covered by either of the replacement or customer satisfaction programs can visit a company-owned Firestone Tire & Service Center or an authorized participating Firestone retailer for assistance. To identify a convenient and participating retailer, call toll-free 1-800-465-1904 or 1-888-276-2120 in Puerto Rico. This information is also available on the Internet at