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Ford statistics come under fire in Venezuela

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Ford Motor Co.'s decision to run a newspaper ad in Venezuala defending the Explorer is being questioned by vehicle and tire manufacturers alike.

Following the call for a recall of Ford Explorers in Venezuela by a consumer protection agency, Ford ran an ad heavy with statistical data supposedly proving Ford Explorers in Venezuela are safer than other SUVs in the Venezuelan market.

According to records from Indecu, the Venezuelan consumer protection agency, there had been 50 Explorer accidents -- some involving fatalities -- since May. In all but one case, the Explorers were driving on tires other than those made by Bridgetone/Firestone Inc., which prompted talk of a vehicle recall. Ford disputed those findings.

General Motors de Venezuela and Daimler/Chrsyler have questioned the validity of the data in the ad. According to an article by Carla Lombardi in yesterday's Caracas daily El Nacional, a DaimlerChrysler spokesman said the company is considering filing a report to the Automotive Chamber of Venezuela in order to get them involved in the matter.

Goodyear de Venezuela also is getting involved. In the article, a Goodyear de Venezuela executive said the company had been careful not to make any comments about Explorers equipped with Firestone tires.

“But now they (Ford) are trying to get us involved by saying that the Explorer has not done any harm to anyone and that the other SUVs are even less safe," the aricle quoted him as saying. "We have requested Setra (the country's transport and transit service) to inform us about the statistical data in Ford’s possession which they have exposed to the public opinion.”

As of yesterday, Setra did not possess or know the origin of the data. "We will find out where that information came from,” said an agency official.

No vehicle makes are mentioned in the Ford ad. However, a GM spokesman was quoted as saying "it is obvious that when referring to other SUVs as the cause of a greater number of accidents, the other models and makes which compete in the same category are harmed.”

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