Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. CEO John T. Lampe said in testimony before Congress yesterday that the company's tires are safe and again raised tough questions about Ford's most popular selling SUV, saying that testing and accident data prove "there is something wrong with the Ford Explorer."
In order to get the answers he says the public deserves, Lampe said the role of the Ford Explorer in these accidents must be investigated. He testified that Firestone has worked hard to find answers to questions about its tires and called on Ford to "come forward in the same spirit and support a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigation of the vehicle issues.
"No one cares more about the safety of the people who travel on our tires than we do,” Lampe said during the testimony. “We're taking responsibility for our products. We did a massive recall. And now we're doing what's right by asking the tough questions about the Ford Explorer."
Lampe referenced data showing that Firestone supplied the exact same tire to Ford for use on both the Ford Explorer and the Ranger light truck, but the claims rate on the Explorer is as much as eight times higher than the Ranger. In addition, testing conducted by the company showed that the Explorer is more likely to roll over after a tire separation than other SUVs.
"The loss of tread or air in a tire shouldn't cause a driver to lose control – the driver should be able to pull over, not roll over," he said.
Lampe cited research conducted by Ohio State University professor Dennis Guenther, an expert in the field of vehicle dynamics. According to the study, a substantial number of Explorers exhibit design defects that cause transitions to a less safe "oversteer" condition without the driver's knowledge. This makes the Explorer's handling imprecise and unpredictable in these situations, where precise and predictable handling is essential to safe vehicle control, the study charges.
Additionally, Lampe provided information from the Florida Traffic Crash Database showing that for 1994 through 2000 model year vehicles registered in Florida, the Explorer rolls over twice as much as all other comparable SUVs in single vehicle, non-tire related highway accidents.