Opening salvo at the hearings fired by BFS

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Round one at the House of Representatives hearings on the rollover incidents involving Ford Explorers and Firestone tires goes to Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.

"There is something wrong with the Ford Explorer,” said Bridgestone/Firestone Chairman, CEO and President John Lampe, citing testing and accident data. He testified that Firestone has worked hard to find answers to questions about its tires, and called on Ford to “come forward in the same spirit and support a NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) investigation of the vehicle issues.”

Speaking before two subcommittees of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Lampe also reiterated the company mantra that Firestone tires are safe. “No one cares more about the safety of the people who travel on our tires than we do. We’re doing our part.

"We’re taking responsibility for our products. We did a massive recall. And now we’re doing what’s right by asking the tough questions about the Ford Explorer.”

Lampe referenced data showing that Firestone supplied the exact same tire to Ford for use on both the Ford Explorer and the Ranger, and yet the claims rate on the Explorer is as much as eight times higher than the Ranger.

In addition, BFS testing showed that the Explorer is more likely to roll over after a tire separation than other SUVs. “The loss of tread or air in a tire shouldn’t cause a driver to lose control –- the driver should be able to pull over, not roll over,” he said.

According to a study conducted by Ohio State University professor Dr. Dennis Guenther, a recognized expert in the field of vehicle dynamics, a substantial segment of Explorers is defectively designed and transitions to a less safe “oversteer” condition, without the driver’s knowledge. This makes the Explorer’s handling imprecise and unpredictable in these situations.

Lampe also provided information from the Florida Traffic Crash Database showing that for 1994 through 2000 model year vehicles registered in Florida, the Explorer rolls over twice as much as all other comparable SUVs in single vehicle, non-tire related highway accidents.

Finally, Lampe told the Congressmen about reports from Venezuela showing that Explorers are still involved in rollover accidents while equipped with non-Firestone tires.

“These warning signs cannot and should not be ignored,” he said. “As I’ve said before, Ford can replace all of our Wilderness AT tires, but Explorers will continue to roll over. And we need to understand why.”

BFS ended its 96-year partnership with Ford after the vehicle manufacturer "refused to examine the Explorer’s role in these accidents," according to Lampe, who also cited testing and "real-world data" showing that the tires Ford is replacing perform at world class levels. “Replacing good tires with other tires is a diversionary tactic and won’t increase customer safety."

Ford CEO and President Jacques Nasser is expected to testify before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection and the Subcommittee on Oversights and Investigation as well.

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