490,000 Steeltex Tires Recalled

Bridgestone/Firestone announced a recall Thursday of about 490,000 16-inch Steeltex tires linked to sport utility vehicle crashes that killed five people.

About 297,000 of the Steeltex LT265/75R16 Load Range D tires are on the road in the United States and 20,000 more internationally, the company said.

"We haven't identified a specific problem with the tires," company spokesman Dan MacDonald said. "The data suggested that there's an issue, and the decision was made that instead of having a long drawn-out investigation to figure out if there is a problem, let's just step up and replace the tires."

The tiremaker said it learned two months ago that there were six crashes involving SUVs with Steeltex tires. It said it reported the information to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as required, and announced the voluntary recall.

The safety administration first noticed a pattern of crashes and blowouts with Steeltex tires, federal officials said.

CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports customers have complained of catastrophic tread separation and other dangers.

The tires were made in Canada for use on Ford Excursions from 2000 to 2002 and some early 2003 models.

The tires are among those that have been the subject of a CBS News investigation. The government has investigated them twice before, but cleared them for use.

The recall comes 3½ years after the company began a recall of 17 million ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tires. More than 200 people were reported killed and hundreds more injured in rollover crashes after the tread on those tires separated. The company has spent an estimated $1.5 billion on that recall, including the settlement of dozens of lawsuits.

A current lawsuit accuses the tire manufacturer of using substandard materials to make a Steeltex model not covered by the recall. A hearing is scheduled next month to determine whether the suit should become a class-action case. The lawsuit seeks at least $1 billion in reimbursement for motorists and a recall of Steeltex R4S, R4SII and A/T tires.

CBS News has documented problems in other Steeltex tires - about 41 million Steeltex tires of various models have been produced and are standard equipment on 71 types of vehicles, including pickup trucks, SUVs and recreational and emergency vehicles. However, safety officials say they see no need for a wider recall.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta praised the company's decision to recall the tires, saying it "shows that our system of safety standards is working."