Ford Motor Co. plans to replace as many as 13-million Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. tires at a cost of $3 billion, U.S. Representative Billy Tauzin (R-LA) said following a briefing with Ford CEO Jacques Nasser.
Tauzin said Nasser and Ford haven't discussed with Bridgestone/Firestone whether the tiremaker will share the cost. Bridgestone/Firestone yesterday severed the companies' century-long ties, saying that they no longer trust each other and that Ford is ducking safety concerns about its Explorer SUV.
The relationship between the companies became strained in the past year after the recall of 6.5-million Firestone tires linked to at least 174 U.S. traffic deaths involving Ford Explorers. Officials from Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone have exchanged blame for the tire failures since they came to light.
Tauzin said he will ask the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to review Ford data that show Firestone Wilderness tires exceed the industry's failure rate, regardless of which Firestone factory made them. Nasser earlier met with Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta to outline the recall effort and findings, which Ford is expected to release later today.
“That's a huge undertaking and enormous expense for Ford Motor Co., but if the company is right, these tires fail at a rate better than three times the industry standard,” said Tauzin, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Tauzin said he has scheduled additional hearings on safety of the tires for after the Memorial Day holiday.
Bridgestone/Firestone chairman John Lampe said his company welcomes the hearings.
“We believe there are significant safety concerns with a substantial segment of Ford Explorers,” Lampe said in a prepared statement. “We look forward to presenting our information to the committee and showing them our tires are safe.”
Nasser declined to comment on Ford's plans or the cost of the program.