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Strategic Safety Urges Ford/Firestone to Include All Wilderness Tires in Recall

14 August 2000

Strategic Safety Urges Ford/Firestone to Include All Wilderness Tires in Recall

    ARLINGTON, Va. - Strategic Safety, a firm specializing in research and 
investigation of motor vehicle safety, first uncovered Ford's overseas recalls 
of Firestone tires and on July 31, 2000, urged Ford and Firestone to take 
immediate action and recall tires in the U.S. Now the firm is calling on Ford 
and Firestone to complete the job before additional lives are lost and injuries 
accrue.  Ford and Firestone's current recall excludes 16-inch tires and 15-inch 
Firestone Wilderness tires built in plants other than Decatur, leaving millions 
of owners at risk.

    Ford's overseas recalls show that the company replaced both 15-inch and
16-inch tires in foreign markets.  Ford and Firestone continue to refuse to
recall 16-inch tires in the U.S. claiming differences in environmental
conditions and usage patterns, the same argument that the companies used when
confronted with the foreign recalls.  Ford and Firestone have failed to
explain why environmental conditions and usage patterns affect one size tire
and not the other.

    Ford and Firestone argue that 15-inch Wilderness tires built in the
Decatur plant are subject to tread separation at much higher rates.  The
companies have yet to identify why these rates are higher.  However, during
the 1990s, the Decatur plant was building as many as 50 different tires
concurrently with the tires that are subject to the recall.  To the extent
that the manufacturer claims this is a Decatur plant problem, it would be
expected that the same high failure rate would persist in all tire lines that
were being manufactured at the same time and on the same production facilities
as the recalled tires.  If the rates are the same, all the tire lines built
concurrent with the recalled tires should also be recalled.  If the rates are
different, the problem must be related to the design of the recalled tires,
which is the same regardless of where the tire was made.

    Ford and Firestone argue that the 16-inch tires on U.S. models are being
excluded from the recall because of the lower number of failures associated
with this size.  Overall failure numbers are expected to be lower because
fewer vehicles and model years are fitted with the 16-inch tires.

    Firestone documents indicate that the Wilderness A/T P235/75R15 tires made
at the Decatur plant are produced with no significant differences from those
produced at the Joliette and Wilson plants.

    Bridgestone/Firestone workers at the Decatur plant claim that tires built
at their plant are made from the same stock and design used by all the plants.

    Ford has an equal or greater responsibility to recall the subject tires,
as 45 of the 50 known fatal injuries were to occupants in Ford vehicles, and
253 of the 270 complaints identified by NHTSA involve Ford vehicles.  Ford's
responsibility is heightened by its involvement in the design and
specification of the tires Firestone manufactures for its vehicles.