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Friday, 1 June, 2001, 11:34 GMT 12:34 UK
Firestone calls for Ford probe
Firestone tyre centre in Fairfax, Virginia
Firestone: Safety problem is with the vehicle not the tyres
By the BBC's Stephen Evans in New York.

One of the most vicious corporate rows has taken a new twist in its acrimony.

Ford and Firestone have each accused the other's products of causing crashes, which have claimed 174 lives in the United States.

Now the tyre maker has produced what it says is scientific evidence that one of Ford's best-selling models has a tendency to topple over.

It wants the American government to investigate Ford's vehicles.

End of an era

Ford and Firestone - two American corporate legends although the tyre maker is now Japanese-owned - have already severed their links, which go back nearly a century since Harvey Firestone sold his first tyre to Henry Ford.

Samples of Firestone tyres being delivered to the Venezuelan Attorney Generals office
Ford: Firestone tyres to blame

Now they are going for each other's jugular over why Explorers, Ford's best-selling four-by-four sports off-road vehicle have toppled over when tyres blow out.

Ford says it is the tyres. Firestone has now blasted back with a report on the Explorer done at Ohio State University.

Driver's control

The engineers there tried different makes of vehicle with different makes of tyres and concluded - as they put it - it is a vehicle problem, not a tyre problem.

The engineers say it is harder for the driver of an Explorer to keep control if a tyre bursts.

In such a sudden situation, the engineers conclude, the vehicle turns more sharply than the driver intends as he tries to steer out of the accident.

Reputations on the line

Firestone has now taken the gloves off in its fight with Ford by asking the American government to investigate the vehicle.

Ford replied to the Firestone report by saying that what it called the "real world data" showed the Explorer was one of the safest vehicles on the road.

It has also started a big advertising campaign this week. Both companies are fighting for their corporate reputations - and in this business, where safety is involved, reputations add up to billions of dollars in sales.

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See also:

01 Jun 01 | Business
Volvo firm faces manslaughter probe
21 May 01 | Business
Tyre scare prompts Explorer recall
22 May 01 | Business
Ford confirms $2.1bn tyre recall
19 Apr 01 | Business
Ford profits fall 41%
23 Mar 01 | Business
Ford faces 7bn lawsuits
22 Feb 01 | Business
Bridgestone hit by safety drive
11 Jan 01 | Business
Bridgestone boss resigns
27 Dec 00 | Business
Ford settles out of court
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