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Lampe: 'Ford testing is misleading at best'

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With the Ford/Firestone firestorm at the top of mind awareness, Modern Tire Dealer conducted a phone interview with John Lampe, chairman, CEO and president of Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., to get his views on recent events.

When asked how tire dealers and consumers can know who's statistical data to believe -- Bridgestone/Firestone's or Ford Motor Co.'s -- Lampe was direct. "Ford's testing is misleading at best." As an example, he said Ford concluded that its SUVs performed the same as other vehicles during lateral acceleration testing at .5g's.

However, .5g's is "way above linear range at normal operations," which would make the results misleading. In contrast, he said testing of Ford Explorers in a study conducted by Ohio State University professor Dr. Dennis Guenther, a recognized expert in the field of vehicle dynamics, was done under real-world driving conditions.

The Guenther report stated that a substantial segment of Explorers is defectively designed and transitions to a less safe “oversteer” condition, without the driver’s knowledge.

Lampe said he is confident tire dealers -- even those who don't sell the Firestone brand -- know the score. "If you talk to 100 dealers, you'll find out that 100 of them will say Bridgestone/Firestone doesn't have a problem."

He said dealers are not swayed by what appears in the media because they see what is actually happening in their shops. Consumers, however, don't have that experience, so they tend to believe what they see and hear.

Some tires may lose air, or experience a tread separation, he continued. "Tires are not indestructable. But from the dealer standpoint, I don't have any concerns at all. We have to win back the consumer confidence."

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