WASHINGTON—Some of the most powerful men in Congress are taking an interest in Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.'s 6.5-million tire recall.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, has called a hearing Sept. 6 to consider the issues surrounding the Bridgestone/Firestone tire recall.
Although Mr. McCain's office did not have a witness list at presstime, Aug. 24, he was expected to invite Ford Motor Co. CEO Jacques Nasser, Bridgestone/Firestone Executive Vice President John Lampe and others to testify on the causes and handling of the recall.
Rep. W.J. "Billy" Tauzin, R-La., chairman of the House Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade and Consumer Protection, also is "seriously considering" holding hearings on the recall, although he hasn't yet set a date.
Mr. McCain initially expressed his concern over the recall in an Aug. 14 letter to Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater, urging the speeding up of the phased recall and a review of federal mechanisms for collecting and reporting tire defect data.
"While I appreciate the efforts of Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. to address a potentially life-threatening safety matter, I have serious doubts that consumers in all states will be adequately protected using this type of phased recall," he wrote.
BFS has since informed retailers everywhere to satisfy all customer requests for replacement tires.
Acknowledging that Mr. Slater's authority over a voluntary recall is limited, he urged him "to work with Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. to expand the scope of this recall to ensure that all consumers are protected."
Regarding data collection on tire defects, Mr. McCain noted that lawsuits involving the Firestone tires were filed as early as 1992.
"Some of these suits were settled with gag orders in place," he said. "Furthermore, the manufacturer recalled the same tire in some foreign countries. It seems that evidence of this alleged defect could have, and maybe should have, been discovered sooner."
Mr. McCain also said that a bill to increase National Highway Traffic Safety Administration penalties against companies that misreport product defect data "may be part of the solution."
Meanwhile, Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., ranking Democrat on the House Commerce Committee, wrote BFS Chairman Masatoshi Ono Aug. 11 seeking his assurances that the company will reimburse ATX and Wilderness owners who buy or have already bought new tires. Bridgestone/Firestone outlined its reimbursement policies five days later.