Firestone/Ford partnership ends acrimoniously

May 21, 2001

The 100-year relationship between Firestone and Ford is over. Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. (BFS) Chairman, CEO and President John Lampe has informed Ford Motor Co. CEO Jacques Nasser that BFS will not enter into any new tire sales agreements with Ford in North and South America.

In a letter to Nasser, Lampe wrote that business relationships are built on trust and mutual respect. "We have come to the conclusion that we can no longer supply tires to Ford since the basic foundation of our relationship has been seriously eroded."

Firestone brand tires were OE on 43% of Ford's cars and light trucks last year -- roughly 7.5 million tires, according to Modern Tire Dealer's 2000 Facts Issue.

Last year's recall of Firestone Radial ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tires involved 6.5 million tires.

On May 18, Ford leaked its concerns about Firestone tires to the national press. The company reportedly raised the possibility of broadening the original recall.

"Our review of the data does not support the allegations raised today by Ford," said BFS in a prepared statement on Friday.

"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."

In his letter to Nasser, Lampe made it clear that BFS feels Ford is at least partially to blame for accidents and fatalities involving Ford Explorers and the recalled Firestone tires. "Our analysis suggests that there are significant safety issues with a substantial segment of Ford Explorers. We have made your staff aware of our concerns. They have steadfastly refused to acknowledge those issues.

"We have always said that in order to (ensure) the safety of the driving public, it is crucial that there be a true sharing of information concerning the vehicle as well as the tires. You simply are not willing to do that. We believe you are attempting to divert scrutiny of your vehicle by casting doubt on the quality of Firestone tires."