Yet Another Recall For Firestone

Manouchehr Mottaki, Foreign Minister of Iran, speaks during a news conference at hotel in New York, Sunday, March 25, 2007.
AP Photo/Osamu Honda
The same day a new consumer group report urged federal officials to demand a further recall of 40 million additional tires manufactured by Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., the company announced it would replace 8,000 more tires for an unrelated problem.

Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., already in the midst of completing its replacement of 6.5 million tires plagued by tread separation troubles, says it will recall tires with adhesion problems.

The tire maker, a unit of Japan's Bridgestone Corp., will replace about 8,000 Wilderness LE tires, one week's worth of output at its plant in Cuernavaca, Mexico, GM spokesman Terry Rhadigan and Bridgestone/Firestone spokeswoman Chris Karbowiak said. The tires were made during the week of April 23, 2000.

The newly recalled tires are equipped on fewer than 5,000 of GM's half-ton Chevrolet Surburban and GMC Yukon XL sport utility vehicles made at the No. 1 automaker's Silao, Mexico, plant, Rhadigan said. Owners will be contacted within a week, and replacements will be made at no charge, the company said.

Bridgestone/Firestone has replaced more than 90 percent of the 6.5 million ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tires it recalled in August, most of which were equipped on Ford Motor Co.'s popular Explorer SUV. Bridgestone/Firestone said the two recalls are unrelated.

Meanwhile a report, to be released by the consumer group Public Citizen later this week, says all Firestone Wilderness tires have "precisely the same defect" as the 6.5 million, 15-inch size tires already recalled in August of last year.

The report primarily blames a weak "'wedge' area of the failed tires" for causing the tread to separate from the tires, reports CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson.

"It is large. There's no question about it," said Joan Claybrook, Public Citizen spokeswoman. "But on the other hand, the public's lives are at stake." The report does not address Tuesday's newly announced recall.

The problem is more likely to surface under harsh conditions, such as hot weather and low tire inflation pressure, according to the report obtained by CBS News.

Figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration link 148 deaths and more than 525 injuries in the United States to separations, blowouts and other tread problems in Firestone's ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tires.

Most of the blowouts have happened to tires on Ford Explorer sports utility vehicles, putting the auto maker along with the tire giant under intense scrutiny by federal investigators.

Although Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone claimed that all the unsafe tires are off the road, Public Citizen faults the two companies for using internal statistics, which can't be independently confirmed to justify the limited recall. The consumer watchdog group also accused the companies of refusing to consider "major litigation claims involving death and injury, consumer complaints or adjustment records."

"My hope is that the federal government will take an analytical look the materials that we're presenting and understand that this counters the position taken by Ford and Firestone - that everything is fine, that all the bad tires have been recalled," Claybrook said. "Because we don't believe they have been."

Public Citizen will present its report to Capitol Hill lawmakers. Federal investigators are expected to finish a probe in the spring.

Public Citizen said in its report that "nine in ten" federal complaints about Wilderness tires involve "tires that are not being recalled."

Ford did replace the Wilderness tires being questioned by Public Citizen in other countries, including Malaysia, Thailand, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Saudi Arabia and eight other Arab nations.

The two companies are unwavering in their position that no more tires need to be recalled. The two companies released their own reports in mid-December that supported previous theories as to the blame of the blowouts.

After a four-month investigation, the Nashville-based tire maker cited the shoulder design of the 15-inch ATX tires and the unique way the rubber was processed at Decatur, Ill. plant. In the report, Bridgestone/Firestone said another factor was the lower inflation pressure and higher vehicle load limits recommended by Ford.

The company's recall, which began in August, is one of the largest in U.S. history. The tire problems have been subject to high-profile congressional hearings and investigation and prompted Congress to pass an overhaul of U.S. tire safety regulations.

The Bridgestone/Firestone Web site said it has replaced 5,627,376 of the 6.5 million recalled tires as of Dec. 19, 2000.

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