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Advocates and Owners Urge Companies to Stop Finger Pointing

25 August 2000

Safety Advocates and Ford-Firestone Owners Urge Companies to Stop 'Strategy of Secrecy and Finger Pointing'
    WASHINGTON, Aug. 25 Safety advocates and a group of
Ford-Firestone owners have written to Ford CEO Jacques Nasser and
Bridgestone/Firestone President Matatoshi Ono urging that they "abandon their
strategy of secrecy and finger pointing" by lifting "the veil of secrecy that
has shrouded Firestone tire failures and Ford Explorer stability for almost a
decade."  The letter was signed by Joan Claybrook, President of Public
Citizen, Ralph Hoar, Director of and Bob Rolls who heads a
group of Ford-Firestone owners pressing Ford and Firestone to conduct a full
recall of Firestone ATX and Wilderness tires used primarily on Ford vehicles.
    The letter said that Ford and Firestone will have to make full disclosure
"to restore public trust" in their companies.  "Polls are showing that the
public doesn't believe Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone," they said, citing a
recent Automotive News survey showing that 50 percent of those surveyed rated
Ford's "level of honesty" only fair to poor with 60 percent rating
Bridgestone/Firestone's "level of honesty" only fair to poor.  "This lack of
trust will quickly find its way to your bottom line," they said.
    "Rather than trying to salvage your reputation by appearing in television
ads or with full-page newspaper advertisements, you and your companies should
just come clean with the American people.  Ask judges to lift the gag orders
that you've required to settle law suits; withdraw the confidentiality shield
that you've asked NHTSA to put on documents you've provided during the
agency's defect investigation and provide all of the numbers for tire
failures, crashes, deaths, and injuries associated with Ford's vehicles and
Bridgestone/Firestone's tires," they said.  "If the American people are being
asked to believe your ads and press releases, they need the full story, not
just bits and pieces," they added.

    -- Ford and Firestone have insisted on secrecy agreements -- so-called
       protective orders -- in numerous lawsuits stemming from Ford vehicle
       rollovers following a Firestone tire failure.

    -- Ford and Firestone have asked NHTSA to withhold from the public
       documents provided during the current defect investigation.

    -- Statistics that Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone have provided the public
       fail to disclose the number of tire failures for individual
       Bridgestone/Firestone facilities or tire production numbers for those
       facilities.  Without those numbers, independent assessments are not

    "Abandon your strategy of secrecy and level with the American public,"
they said, claiming, "The extended media attention to this story is fueled by
more than the mounting toll of deaths and injuries.  It is fueled by your
attempts to treat this as a public relations problem rather than directly
addressing the real issues your companies face.  You don't have a public
relations crisis, you have a credibility crisis because you've hidden the
truth for years and now seek to 'manage' the damage rather than tell the