Undertaking a limited recall of Firestone ATX, ATX II and some Wilderness AT light truck tires in size P235/75R15 was the right thing for Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. to do—right for the company, right for tire users and right for those selling and servicing those tires.
While Bridgestone/Firestone has not determined what, if any, problem exists with these tires, the company's top executives wisely chose to face the issue head-on. They didn't attempt to stonewall the way the former Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. did when dealing with the Firestone 500 problem in the 1970s.
Then, as now, the issue involved tread separations, accidents in which people died or were injured and a firestorm of bad publicity for the company.
In the end, Firestone found itself forced to recall 14 million tires—a move that weakened the company financially and ultimately led to its sale to Japan's Bridgestone Corp. in 1988.
Bridgestone/Firestone executives apparently have learned the painful lessons of that experience. Their decision to recall 6.5 million tires, announced Aug. 9, must have been gut-wrenching and surely will hurt the company financially. But hopefully, it will allow the company to move beyond this problem as quickly as possible.
By acting decisively and responsibly—as pharmaceutical manufacturer Johnson & Johnson did during the Tylenol tampering scare almost two decades ago— Bridgestone/Firestone obviously hopes to limit the damage inflicted on the company, its customers and retailers.
Recalling the tires in question will relieve both sellers and users from worrying about them. Concerned vehicle owners will be given the opportunity to replace their recalled tires at no cost—regardless of the tires' mileage or age. That ought to go a long way toward preserving customer loyalty to the Firestone brand and retailers alike.
Recalling the tires also relieves retailers, including independent Firestone dealers, from facing a situation that otherwise would have placed them in a vulnerable position if a tire they sold or inspected should later fail and result in an injury or death.
By providing free replacement of the recalled tires, the company also will spare retailers from having to haggle with customers over what trade allowance they should be granted based on the tires' remaining tread.
Retailers have a clear course to follow in dealing with owners of the affected Firestone ATX, ATX II and Wilderness tires.
Now, Bridgestone/Firestone must pinpoint the causes and the time period over which questionable tires were produced. Only then can it hope to convince a skeptical buying public that the problem is solved—a process that won't occur overnight even under the best of circumstances.
Facing a product quality issue never is easy or comfortable for any company. But doing so in a forthright and responsible manner, as Bridgestone/Firestone has done, serves the best interests of all concerned. The company is making the best of an unfortunate situation.