DETROIT (Sept. 4, 2000) — In more bad news for Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., Ford Motor Co. is talking to Goodyear about supplying tires to the redesigned Explorer sport-utility, due in January, a source said.
Goodyear is studying whether it will have the production capacity to supply the Explorer, the source added.
Ford disclosed last week that Michelin will supply tires to the redesigned Explorer along with Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.
So if Goodyear is added, the tire business on the new Explorer will be split three ways.
Sources were unable to say how the new Explorer business would be divided among tire suppliers. Asked, in light of the Firestone tire recall, if Michelin would get a larger share of the new Explorer business, Ford spokeswoman Della DiPietro declined to comment.
Firestone is the only original-equipment tire offered on the current-generation Explorer. The Explorer is Ford´s No. 2 seller behind the F-series pickup.
Wider recall sought
With Ford overseeing the process, Firestone still is in the early stages of a recall of 6.5 million tires that are suspected of being defective. Many are mounted on Ford Explorers and other light trucks. About 1.5 million have been replaced.
The Aug. 9 recall covers 15-inch ATX and ATX II tires made in North America and 15-inch Wilderness AT tires made at Firestone´s Decatur, Ill., plant.
Safety groups have called for a far wider recall, to include up to 47 million tires of other sizes and from other plants.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has received more than 1,400 complaints about Firestone tire tread separations and blowouts.
The Ford-Firestone relationship, strained over the past four months by mounting reports of widespread tire failures, has taken a turn for the worse.
At an emotional press conference last week, Ford CEO Jacques Nasser indicated that relations between the two companies are tense at best.
Mr. Nasser said the recall´s short-term impact on the Firestone brand name was "devastating."
"This has been an extremely disappointing period in our relationship," he said. "We are going to take this a day at a time."
Previously, Ford had underscored the 100-year history the two companies shared.
Now, in distancing itself from Firestone, Ford tried to portray itself as a more responsive company than the tire maker.
"Three and a half months ago we asked Firestone to replace tires in Venezuela. When they did not replace the tires, we did," Mr. Nasser said.
In Saudi Arabia "about a year ago," Firestone declined to cover tires under warranty, Mr. Nasser said. "We replaced the tires," he said.
"We were ahead of Firestone in replacing tires and ahead of any government or recall," Mr. Nasser said.
In response, Bridgestone/Firestone Executive Vice President John Lampe said his company has been forthcoming both with Ford and with regulators.
He agreed that this is a difficult time for relations with Ford but said Firestone will do everything it can to preserve the ties.
"We continue to believe in our relationship with Ford," he said.
Crain News Serviceers Amy Wilson, Mary Connelly and Harry Stoffer contributed to this report.