Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. yesterday told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that the facts and the data about the safety of its Wilderness AT tires do not support an agency action that could result in an expanded recall, including those found primarily on Ford Explorers. Wilderness AT tires had also been original equipment on Ford’s F-150 and Ranger light trucks.
“We will do everything in our power to ensure the safety of the driving public,” said Bridgestone/Firestone president & CEO John Lampe. “If one of our tires might jeopardize that safety, then we'll take it off the road. We've done it before and, if it becomes necessary, we'll do it again. But that is simply not the case here.”
Sue Cischke, vp, environmental and safety engineering for Ford Motor Co., said NHTSA has completed its defect investigation into the tires in question, and will issue an initial defect decision, the next step toward a forced recall of the Wilderness AT tires.
“We began replacing these tires on our vehicles in May to ensure the safety and trust of our customers and their families,” Cischke said. “We will continue to work closely with NHTSA as it continues with its initial defect decision.”
A century-long relationship between Firestone and Ford, which ended last month, became strained in the past year after the recall of Firestone Wilderness AT tires linked to at least 203 U.S. traffic deaths involving Ford Explorers. Officials from Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone had exchanged blame for the tire failures since they came to light.
Lampe said that to date NHTSA has failed to make its analysis available to Bridgestone/Firestone for the company to review in any meaningful way. Bridgestone/Firestone says its own extensive examination and evaluation of its tires, competitor tires and the Ford Explorer clearly show that Wilderness AT tires are safe and that further action against the tires is unnecessary and counterproductive.
“We appreciate NHTSA's diligence on this issue, but we strongly disagree with any suggestion that a recall action might be warranted and believe any such action could have potentially serious consequences for the driving public and the entire tire industry,” Lampe said.