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Bridgestone Offers to Replace Tires

NASHVILLE, Tenn. August 26, 2004; Amber McDowell writing for the AP reported that Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire on Thursday launched a "voluntary safety campaign" to replace 27,000 tires involved in accidents that injured more than a dozen people and killed one.

The replacement initiative involves Bridgestone's Dueler A/T tires in size LT285/75R16 LR D that were manufactured in Tosu, Japan, between July 1, 1998 and July 31, 2002, and sold as replacement tires in the United States and Canada.

The Nashville-based company says the replacement offer was spurred by a review of internal data suggesting "that a small percentage of these tires may experience belt detachment." That's especially true if the tires were driven above or below recommended inflation pressures, the company said in a news release.

"A belt detachment of this kind can, in rare instances, lead to a loss of control of a vehicle and a possible crash," according to the release.

"We noticed that this specific type of tire was not performing up to our company's expectations, so we decided to remove the remaining tires from service to avoid the potential of any future problems," said Mike Kane, Bridgestone's vice president of quality assurance.

Bridgestone spokesman Dan McDonald said there have been less than 15 "substantiated" injuries associated with the tires, most of which were minor.

One person was killed in a vehicle equipped with the tires, but McDonald says there is "very good evidence that the tire had been damaged and improperly repaired, and was later involved in that accident."

So far, nine lawsuits have been filed because of accidents involving the tires, McDonald said.

Some 25,600 of the tires were sold primarily as replacement tires by Bridgestone's independent dealers and retail stores operated by its affiliated company, BFS Retail & Commercial Operations.

The remaining 1,400 were sold in the Canada through Bridgestone Firestone Canada's network of independent dealers.

Bridgestone-Firestone North American Tire is a subsidiary of Bridgestone Americas Holding, whose parent company, Bridgestone Corp., is the world's largest tire and rubber company.

The voluntary replacement campaign comes six months after Bridgestone/Firestone announced the recall of about 490,000 Steeltex tires linked to sports utility vehicle crashes that killed five people.

Four years ago, the company began a recall of 17 million ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tires. More than 200 people were reported killed and hundreds more injured in rollover crashes after the tread on those tires separated. The company has spent an estimated $1.5 billion on that recall, including the settlement of dozens of lawsuits.

For free replacement of the Dueler A/T tires, consumers in the United States should visit any of BFS Retail & Commercial Operations' company owned stores: Firestone Tire & Service Centers, ExpertTire, TiresPlus, Hibdon TiresPlus, Wheel Works, GCR, or Firestone Commercial & Farm.

Canadian consumers should seek replacement from an authorized participating Bridgestone retailer.

Consumers with questions should call Bridgestone toll-free at (800) 465-1904.