Originally created 10/06/01

Tire recall will cost millions



TOKYO - Bridgestone Corp. will take a loss of up to $30 million for the latest tire recall at its U.S. subsidiary Bridgestone/Firestone, but the president of the Tokyo company refused to admit to any defects in the tires Friday.

"We are not using the word 'recall,"' Bridgestone President Shigeo Watanabe said. "We are calling it a replacement program."

The tiremaker agreed Thursday to recall 3.5 million more Wilderness AT tires ordered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which had been investigating reports the tires suddenly lost their tread and may be linked to 271 fatalities.

Last summer, Bridgestone/Firestone recalled 6.5 million tires, but it refused to expand the recall.

Neither of the recalls involved tires made at the Bridgestone/Firestone South Carolina plant near Aiken.

Mr. Watanabe said the company was still sticking to its view that a combination of the tires and the vehicles was behind the problem. Most of the suspect tires were on Ford Explorer sport utility vehicles.

The tires in the latest recall include those sold as original equipment on Mercury Mountaineer sport utility vehicles and the Ford Ranger pickup.

Bridgestone was eager to end the federal investigation rather than fight a lengthy court battle, Mr. Watanabe said. And the company felt vindicated because the Thursday recall order did not include Wilderness AT tires on General Motors Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles, he said.

Mr. Watanabe remained cautious about resuming business with Ford. A century-old relationship between the two companies turned sour over the recalls.

"I don't think this will mean that our business with Ford will resume because of this. That won't happen," he told reporters in Tokyo.

Bridgestone posted $254 million in losses for the first fiscal half ending in June on tire recall costs and restructuring at Bridgestone/Firestone.