Originally created 08/17/00

Firestone's flat act



Bridgestone-Firestone, Inc., in its efforts to contain damage during the recall of 6.5 million tires used on truck and sport utility vehicles, has one little problem: The company suspected its tires were faulty but continued to sell them anyway.

Even after it received 193 complaints that the rubber peeled off the tire casing, it was business as usual for Firestone, whose inaction may have caused as many as 62 deaths and 100 injuries.

In some cases tires had failed with fewer than 2,000 miles on them. In others, the tire tread wrapped around the rear axle, causing the rear wheels to lock. Instead of recalling the product at the first sign of trouble, Bridgestone, Firestone's parent company, issued a statement that it had full confidence in its tires.

Only after the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration probed the product was the 6.5 million tire recall offered. The company's actions were not the result of an uncovered mystery, but rather an attempt to salvage what was left of its image.

But Firestone still hasn't admitted that the problem is that the tires were fundamentally a bad product. Ford Motor Co. has had to replace Firestone tires on many of its trucks and SUVs sold in Columbia, Malaysia, Thailand, Venezuela, Ecuador and Saudi Arabia. How can Firestone have "full confidence" when it's been having problems with the ATX model for years?

Instead of simply acknowledging a product defect, Firestone bounced the blame from low-quality production at its factory in Decatur, Ill., to high speeds and hot weather. But what were the causes of the blowouts in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio? Surely not hot weather.

Firestone has yet to take full responsibility for its product, and tells many of its customers they'll have to wait a year before receiving replacements.

The company needs to get its act together. Driving a year on defective tires is the equivalent of sitting on four time bombs - waiting for a fatal explosion. Perhaps Firestone has not learned what America already knows: The time to replace defective tires was yesterday, the time to accept responsibility is now.