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Friday, 23 March, 2001, 13:12 GMT
Ford faces 7bn lawsuits
Inspection of Firestone tyre on Ford Explorer
Inspection of annual report reveals blowout damages
US car maker Ford has admitted it may have to pay out more than $10bn (7bn) in damages in safety-related lawsuits.

But the world's second-largest car company, in its filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, said it still expected to post a strong performance this year, despite the US slowdown.

The damages figure could however grow from other outstanding legal claims for "unspecified damages".

Ford did not list the damages it may have to pay in the securities fraud cases for alleged improprieties in its handling of last year's Explorer rollovers and Firestone tyre recalls.

Ford's defence

Chief Executive Jacques Nasser has vigorously defended the safety record of the Explorer, which is the world's best-selling sport utility vehicle.

Ford Chief Executive Jac Nassar
Nassar maintains the tyres were at fault
Ford has consistently argued that the root cause of Explorer rollovers were tyre blowouts and not the vehicle.

US regulators have linked more than 170 deaths and about 500 injuries to the Firestone tyres, many of which were fitted as standard equipment on Explorers, but have not found the reason for the tyre failures.

Around 6.5m of the tyres were recalled by Firestone at what Ford has described as its own insistence last summer.

The image of Ford suffered a further blow in January, when Mr Nasser said product defects and productions delays had cost Ford more than $1bn last year alone.

More trouble

In the SEC filing, Ford said it faced various asbestos-related claims totaling about $1.7 bn.

Ford also said it had been warned by the US government that it may be forced to pay for the clean up "numerous hazardous substance storage, recycling or disposal sites" and in some cases for environmental damage.

In its annual report, Ford said it expects to post a strong performance this year, despite the slowing US economy and growing competition in the highly profitable sport utility vehicle market it has long dominated.

The company expects US car makers sell up to 16.5m cars and trucks this year, which would still make 2001 the third best sales year ever in the US market.

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See also:

18 Jan 01 | Business
Ford profits fall 33%
18 Oct 00 | Business
US tyre crisis hits Ford earnings
11 Oct 00 | Business
Executive resigns after tyre recall
11 Oct 00 | Business
Ford recall ordered
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