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Friday, 5 October, 2001, 05:42 GMT 06:42 UK
Firestone tyre recall to cost $30m
Ford Explorer
More recalls for owners of Ford Explorers
Bridgestone expects the latest tyre recall at its American Firestone unit to cost up to $30m.

The United States government has asked for another 3.5 million Firestone tyres to be recalled for safety checks by Ford, which used them on sports utility vehicles.

It follows the recall of 16 million Firestone Wilderness AT tyres in August 2000.

"This is not a recall, this is a replacement programme because we have not admitted any defects," said Shigeo Watanabe, president of Firestone's Japan-based parent firm Bridgestone.

Firestone said it will replace certain 15 and 16-inch all-terrain tyres originally installed on Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer sport-utility vehicles (SUVs), as well as replacement tyres.

The recall applies only to those tyres manufactured before 1998 and two sizes - P235R/75R15 and P255/70R16.

We do not agree with NHTSA's findings. Our testing and science show our tyres perform extremely well

John Lampe
CEO and president, Bridgestone/Firestone

"We recognise that a lengthy confrontation with [the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)] would continue to bring into question the quality of our products and delay our ongoing work of rebuilding our company," said John Lampe, chief executive of Bridgestone/Firestone.

Findings faulted

Mr Lampe said Firestone does not agree with NHTSA's findings, saying in company tests the tyres performed extremely well.

Bridgestone/Firestone CEO John Lampe
Bridgestone/Firestone's John Lampe has criticised additional recalls
The company said 768,000 of the 3.5 million tyres are still in use.

In acceding to the government's request for additional recalls, Firestone said the government will close its investigation of Firestone tyres, which began in May 2000.

In July, Federal Officials told Firestone that the company needed to recall an additional 4 million tyres for safety problems.

If Firestone, a unit of Japan's Bridgestone Corp, proved unwilling, it could have faced a forced recall.

Additional recall

The additional recall involves tyres made at plants other than the Decatur, Illinois, manufacturing facility that was suspected of producing all of the faulty tyres.

The additional recall involves Firestone Wilderness AT tyres produced in Joliet, Illinois, and Wilson, North Carolina, as well as Decatur.

A freshly shod Ford Explorer with Goodyear tires
Ford is using Goodyear and other suppliers to replace defective Firestone tyres
Also in June, Firestone announced it would close its Decatur plant where the bulk of the 6.5 million tyres it recalled last August were produced.

Firestone has admitted that tyres manufactured at its Decatur plant have had problems. Those tyres are believed to be the cause of rollover crashes that have resulted in 203 deaths and more than 700 injuries.

But the company has denied that tyres manufactured at its other plants suffer from the same tread-separation glitch and instead blamed the design of the Ford Explorer and Ford's demand for lowered tyre pressures.

Firestone has consistently defended the safety of its Wilderness AT tyres even after issuing a recall of the tyres last summer.

Massive recall

Ford last month began its own recall campaign to replace 13 million Firestone tyres, some of which had previously been recalled by Firestone.

The move caused Firestone to sever its 100-year-old relationship with the car maker and frustrated consumers who had already replaced recalled tyres.

Aside from severed relations between the two companies, the recall has taken a financial toll as well.

In announcing its second-quarter profits, Ford said it lost $551m (389m) under the weight of its $3bn (2.11bn) recall of Firestone tyres, as well as increased competition for its Explorer and other models.

For its part, Bridgestone, whose shares are traded on the Nikkei stock exchange in Tokyo, said in July it expects to post a yearly loss of 130bn yen ($1.05bn, 744m), compared with an earlier forecast of 58bn yen profit ($470m, 330m).

See also:

13 Aug 01 | Business
Firestone lawsuit trial begins
25 Jul 01 | Business
New tyre failures haunt Ford
22 May 01 | Business
Ford confirms $2.1bn tyre recall
21 May 01 | Business
Tyre scare prompts Explorer recall
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