NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Aug. 25, 2000)—The daunting task of collecting and processing some 6.5 million light truck tires recalled by Bridgestone/ Firestone Inc. is being shouldered by more than 13,000 authorized retail Firestone locations across North America, according to the company.
BFS Executive Vice President John Lampe said this number includes 8,500 retail locations operated by independent tire dealers, 1,500 company-owned Firestone tire and service centers and 3,100 Ford, Mercury and Mazda auto dealerships. The Nashville-based company has promised to replace its recalled tires at absolutely no cost to the consumer.
Retailers in this group have been asked to carry out the recall "as quickly, as efficiently and with as little hassle for the customer as possible," Mr. Lampe told Tire Business.
First of all, retailers must make certain the tires of each customer´s vehicle are subject to the recall—namely all Radial ATX and Radial ATX II tires, as well as some Wilderness AT tires that bear the DOT code designation "VD," indicating they were made at the company´s Decatur, Ill., plant.
Participating retailers are asked to replace the recalled tires with BFS-made tires whenever possible. However, if BFS tires are not available or if, in order to satisfy the customer, it becomes necessary to install a competitor´s tires as replacements, then retailers may do so.
Regardless of what brand is selected—and no matter the age, mileage or condition of the recalled tires on the customer´s vehicle—replacement is to be carried out totally without cost to the customer, he said.
Even tires whose remaining tread is less than 2/32nds—tires worn below the legal limit in some states—are to be replaced free of charge, the company has decreed.
"We´re asking dealers to use BFS products first," Mr. Lampe said. "If they do, we will reimburse their cost and pay them an additional $10 per tire for mounting and balancing."
If participating retailers find it necessary to install a competitor´s tires, BFS will reimburse them with an amount equal to the price of the company´s own product plus $20 to cover any additional cost they might incur in obtaining such replacements, he said.
Once the customer brings in his or her vehicle, dealers and other participating retailers are to:
1) Record the serial number of the recalled tires and the vehicle´s identification number on a claim form furnished by the company; and
2) Ship the recalled tires to one of 17 designated locations (namely, the company´s 14 warehouses plus three service centers newly established for that purpose).
All recalled tires received by the company will be shredded and disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner, Mr. Lampe said.
Motorists electing to replace their recalled tires elsewhere can obtain reimbursement by bringing their recalled tires to an authorized Firestone outlet.
There, the retailer will give the customer a delivery receipt on which the DOT and serial numbers of the recalled tires are to be recorded. The customer must fill out a reimbursement request form and mail it along with his delivery receipt and sales invoice to a Chicago-based redemption center. A reimbursement check will arrive by return mail. BFS will reimburse up to $100 per tire in the case of competitors´ brands.
How long it will take for the customer to receive his or her reimbursement check will depend on the volume of requests being processed, Mr. Lampe acknowledged. "We already have cut some reimbursement checks. But of course the greatest volume is still to come," he told Tire Business Aug. 18, some nine days after announcing the recall.
By that date, at least one dealer was heard complaining about having to pay cash up front to buy non-BFS replacement tires and then having to wait for reimbursement in the form of a credit or check from the tire maker. However, the company is making every effort to reimburse retailers and tire customers as rapidly as possible, Mr. Lampe said.
Another complaint heard from dealers was that Ford Motor Co.´s dealerships were allegedly getting preferential treatment in receiving supplies of BFS-branded replacement tires—a charge Mr. Lampe quickly dismissed as untrue.
In fact, it is Firestone dealers and company stores—not Ford auto dealerships—that are getting priority shipments of BFS replacement tires, he said.
BFS recognized from the start that attempting to come up with the volume of replacement tires needed based on its production capabilities and available inventories would require too much time, he said.
Therefore, the tire maker asked Ford Motor Co. to encourage its dealers to use other brands as replacements in order that Firestone retailers might be furnished a greater supply of BFS products, Mr. Lampe said.
Ford has compiled a list of "approved" brands it is recommending for such replacement purposes. Besides Bridgestone and Firestone, the list so far includes Goodyear, Michelin, Uniroyal, BFGoodrich, General, Continental and Pirelli—primarily the so-called "major brands" traditionally used as original equipment in North America. The list is posted on the auto maker´s Web site: www.Ford.com.I updated the list based on what I found on the Web site — law
Other tire makers, including arch rivals Goodyear and Michelin, also were contacted by the company and asked to step up production of their P235/75R15-sized tires to help supply customers´ needs in the wake of the recall.
"I must say we´ve gotten tremendous response from other manufacturers in terms of their willingness to make more tires available," Mr. Lampe said. "Some have contacted their dealers to offer instructions on how they can assist in the recall. So we´re getting a lot of support there."
However, not everyone is satisfied with the recall´s progress to date, including BFS officials themselves, he acknowledged. It´s a "damned if you do and damned if you don´t proposition," said Mr. Lampe, responding to criticism from safety advocates and others about how the company has conducted history´s second-largest tire recall.
"We know we did the right thing by announcing this recall long before we legally were required to do so," he said. But as a result, "we were totally unprepared to handle it. We didn´t take the time to build up inventories or get any of this stuff in place. We just decided we were going to do it and handle matters the best we could. So we´re still getting geared up on a lot of these things."