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Friday, 18 May, 2001, 20:59 GMT 21:59 UK
Ford mulls fresh Firestone tyre recall
Ford Explorer
Explorer sales have been declining since the Firestone tyre recall
By BBC News Online's North America Business Reporter David Schepp

Ford Motor Company is considering asking Firestone to recall more tyres after the car maker said it found safety problems with other tyres installed on its vehicles, reports say.

Ford admits the problems are not as severe as the ones that plagued Ford Explorer models, resulting in a recall of 6.5 million Firestone-brand ATX, Wilderness and Wilderness AT tyres.

Nevertheless, the maker of Ford, Volvo and Jaguar cars says it is working closely with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to determine what steps it should take.

Tyres made by Firestone, a unit of Japan's Bridgestone, are alleged to have contributed to more than 120 deaths in North and South America alone.

Ford said it found problems with the tyres after exhaustive review of all tyres equipped on its vehicles, according to report in Friday's New York Times newspaper.

PR campaign

Tyres involved in this latest scrutiny do not appear to have the same level of defects that would result in tread separation and the types of rollover accidents experienced by a few Explorer owners, those close to the investigation told the New York Times.

Firestone has begun a public relations campaign in recent weeks, after enduring months of public scrutiny that included testimonies before the US Congress by Ford and Bridgestone-Firestone officials.

Nashville, Tennessee-based Firestone says its "making it right" advertisement stresses the tyre manufacturer's goal of increased quality control and hopes to rebuild consumer confidence, following the Explorer debacle.

Bridgestone's stock price has taken a hit, having fallen 40% from year-ago levels.

Redesigned Explorer

Meanwhile, Ford has seen sales of its new Explorer models decline in the wake of the controversy, despite the introduction of a redesigned Explorer earlier this year, which the car maker has said is safer.

Ford employees, who asked not to be identified, told the New York Times the company hoped to complete a review of the tyres' possible safety problems by the end of May.

The NHTSA is the final arbiter in the decision. It was the government agency's investigation last year that resulted in the recall of the 6.5 million Firestone tyres.

The agency has requested that Firestone expand the recall to include additional tyres, but the company has refused to do so.

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