Ford continues to blame Firestone tires as it prepares for its own recall

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The war between Ford Motor Co. and Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. continues as Ford prepares to recall 47,000 of its redesigned sport utility vehicles because a too-narrow conveyor belt allegedly damaged their tires.

According to the Associated Press (AP), Ford met with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) last Thursday and voiced its concerns about other Wilderness AT tires not included in the tires recalled last year. Last Friday, Ford let its concerns about Firestone tires leak out to the national press.

Bridgestone/Firestone responded immediately. "Our review of the data does not support the allegations raised today by Ford," said the company in a prepared statement on Friday.

"We know that problems with tires cannot be looked at in isolation.... The vehicle and the tire represent a complex, integrated system. To not address the vehicle's role leaves out an important part of the equation.

"The increased tread separation claims that led to the recall of 6.5 million Firestone tires last August were a unique result of a combination of variables, including external factors such as the Explorer vehicle, on which the majority of the tires were riding.

"A decision to initiate a tire recall cannot be based on analysis of only one type of data; it must include a review of the sum total of the facts and be supported by all the evidence, including the nature and the severity of the claims. A thorough analysis of our data does not indicate the need for a larger recall."

BFS also questioned Ford's decision to attack Firestone tires in the media without reviewing its data and analysis with the company first. The AP says BFS Chairman, CEO and President John Lampe was "outraged" by Ford's actions, and sent a letter to Ford CEO Jacques Nasser telling him so.

Now Ford is faced with a recall of its own. The company is preparing to recall 47,000 of its 2002 Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer SUVs reportedly made at its Louisville, Ky., plant. The narrow conveyor belt allegedly damaged the Michelins and Goodyears on the vehicles.

Ford has placed blame for accidents and fatalities involving Ford Explorers and the recalled Firestone tires solely on the tires from the beginning. Ford Explorers were involved in an abnormally high number of the total accidents reported to NHTSA.

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