All-Out War

Carlos Anaya accepts the "Outstanding Variety Program Segment" award onstage at the 18th annual GLAAD Media Awards March 26, 2007 in New York City. GETTY

Firestone declared all-out war against Ford late Thursday, asking the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to open an investigation into the safety of certain Explorers, reports CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson.

Firestone told NHTSA that tests by an expert at Ohio State University shows certain Explorer models "oversteer" following a tread separation on a left rear tire and are "not safe at highway speeds in the hands of an average driver. This must be regarded as a highway safety defect within the meaning of NHTSA's charter."

"When a driver of a vehicle has something happen such as a tread separation, they should be able to pull over not rollover," said Firestone CEO Jim Lampe.

Tire Tussle:
Complete Coverage
The following are investigative stories by CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson that peer into the Firestone tire recall:
  • Firestone: An Insider's View
  • New Worries For Firestone
  • Call For Explorer Ban
  • Firestone In Tire Talks
  • The Casualty Count
  • Courting Firestone
  • Tire Victim: Apology Seemed Sincere
  • Holding Firestone, Ford Accountable
  • Firestone And Ford Place Blame
  • Yet Another Recall For Firestone
  • Why Are Feds So Slow With Recalls?
  • Exclusive video obtained by CBS News offers a dramatic glimpse of the most violent reaction possible to a tread separation. The tests were conducted for lawyers suing Ford. When the tire tread separates, the professional driver barely turns the wheel and the Explorer swerves drastically out of control, the protective outrigger intended to keep it from flipping breaks, and it rolls.

    The driver, wearing special safety gear, walked away and challenged Ford's longtime claim that the people should simply be able to control Explorers if the tread separates. But Thursday, he told CBS News many SUVs oversteer when a tire treaseparates, not just the Ford Explorer.

    Ford said when there's a tread separation, "the Explorer performs the same as competitive SUVs" and "the problem does not exist with Goodyear tires." Firestone request to investigate Explorers stopped short of a formal petition, which would have forced NHTSA to determine if the Explorer has a problem. NHTSA will only say it will look at Firestone's data.

    Earlier this week, Venezuela's consumer protection agency asked the attorney general to seek a nationwide ban on Ford Explorer sales, saying design flaws may have caused 50 road accidents since August.

    But it was unclear whether a ban would actually be ordered.

    Agency president Samuel Ruh met Tuesday with prosecutors to offer what he says is evidence that failing parts in Explorers contributed to 50 rollover crashes that killed 37 people since August.

    Ruh declined to comment after the meeting, saying he was legally prohibited from speaking about the case. A source at the attorney general's office, speaking on condition of anonymity, said an initial study indicates that prosecutors have no legal authority to act on Ruh's request.

    Venezuelan Ombudsman Germain Mundarain publicly criticized Ruh's action, saying that "protecting consumers' rights does not have to involve prohibiting the sale of the vehicles."

    Recall Information
    On August 9, 2000, Firestone and Ford recalled 6.5 million tires over potential tread problems. The recalled tires are:

  • All P235/75R15 Firestone ATX and ATX II tires (from 1991 to present).
  • All P235/75R15 Wilderness AT tires (from 1996 to present) manufactured at Firestone's Decatur, Ill. plant.

    On May 22, 2001, Ford announced a further recall of approximately 13 million tires because of safety concerns. The recalled tires are:

  • All Wilderness AT tires on Ford Vehicles.

    Drivers can get new tires free of charge at authorized Ford, Lincoln, or Mercury dealers that carry tires, or can replace them at other locations and be reimbursed up to $130, depending on the size of tire. Older tires will be replaced first. Firestone tires will not be used as replacements.

    You can contact Ford at (866) 300-1226 to find a retailer near you.

    To report any tire failure, contact the National Highway Trafftic Safety Administration at (888)DASH-2-DOT.

  • Ford last week ordered a massive replacement of Firestone tires, saying they ould be prone to dangerous tread separations. But the cause of hundreds of traffic deaths already blamed on such blowouts remained in dispute.

    Bridgestone-Firestone and Ford's Venezuelan units staged a bitter public feud last year over whether faulty Explorer design or Firestone tire failures — or both — were responsible for rollovers.

    Last year, Firestone began quietly documenting Explorer accidents in Venezuela involving other tires.

    U.S. federal safety investigators last week contacted Venezuelan authorities to look at their new data.

    Firestone and Ford have never agreed on what caused the string of recent accidents the U.S. government is investigating, totaling 6,000 complaints citing tire problems like blowouts or tread separations, resulting in 174 fatalities and more than 700 injuries.

    The accidents led last August to Firestone's recall of 6.5 million ATX, ATX II and 15-inch Wilderness tires made in Decatur, Ill.

    Last week, Ford called for replacement of all Wilderness AT tires — 15-inch, 16-inch and 17-inch, original and replacement tires. Eighty percent of the tires involved are on Ford Explorers, but they are also on some Expeditions, Rangers, F-150s, Broncos and Mercury Mountaineers.

    Federal investigators were looking into a total of 55 million Firestone tires. The Firestone and Ford recalls now account for about half of those.



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    • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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