Ford Motor Co. has asked three other tiremakers to help replace the 13-million Firestone Wilderness AT tires the automaker is recalling over safety concerns. The tires, which are synonymous with the Explorer SUV, are original equipment on the Ranger and F-150 light pickup.
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Michelin North America Inc. and Continental General Tire all have been contacted by Ford, which severed a century-old working relationship with Bridgestone/Firestone on Monday. Ford said the replacement bid unveiled Tuesday should take months and cost $2.1 billion after taxes.
Ford said the precautionary recall of twice the number of tires in Bridgestone/Firestone's recall last August was needed due to its findings that the tires not already recalled had higher failure rates than rival brands.
Bridgestone/Firestone says the tires targeted in Tuesday's Ford recall, including replacement tires resulting from last summer's recall, are safe. The tiremaker also has faulted the automaker's recommended lower inflation level and the design of the Explorer.
Ford said it will reimburse customers up to $110 for 15- and 16-inch tires, and up to $130 for 17-inch tires bought from other authorized retailers. The tires will also be replaced without a charge to the customer at Ford and Lincoln dealerships.
Ford spokesman Ken Zino said 15-inch replacement tires appear abundant, though the automaker has yet to pinpoint the availability of 16-inch tires.
Akron, OH-based Goodyear said it regrets the situation, but is ready to do what it has to for Ford. “We are prepared to do whatever is necessary to help consumers get the right tires on their vehicles as quickly as possible,” the company said in a statement. “To this end, we are urgently implementing plans to ramp up production to meet customer needs.”
Continental spokeswoman Katharina Konowalski said the Charlotte-based company expects to finalize details of Ford's request for additional tires, including how many and when they are needed, adding that Continental does not expect to expand its production to meet the demand. "Continental will, of course, coordinate with Ford to meet their need," Konowalski said.
Michelin president and chairman Jim Micali said yesterday the company would strive to make the replacements convenient and quick for consumers.
During last fall's Firestone tire recall, Michelin made about two million tires available as replacements through Ford dealers and Michelin's own dealer network. Since last summer's recall, Ford stopped making Firestone tires standard on the Explorers, giving consumers the option of swapping them with other brands.