Firestone recall criticized
What's happening to our industry? Where are all the "rubber rats" who stick together to fend off outside forces? Where are the "gum dippers" who've made a decent living selling Firestone tires? And where are all the voices protesting a recall (of 6.5 million Firestone ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tires) based on just 200 accidents out of 48 million units in service?
Are we to issue a recall every time something goes wrong? Should we, for example, recall all the Concorde passenger planes because of one accident?
Is the sport-utility vehicle's high center of gravity of no consequence? Does lowering tire air pressure from 35 to 26 psi to obtain a "softer ride" have no meaning to tire people? Is there no significance to the fact that most of the reported tire failures occurred in "high-temperature" climates?
Has anyone bothered to determine what other factors might have been involved? For example, is there any merit to the theory that heat from an unshielded exhaust system (on the Ford Explorer) might have contributed to those failures?
Were all the tires that failed in South America produced at the company's Decatur, Ill., plant during a workers' strike?
No manufactured product is perfect or risk free. I could get killed just walking to my car. How do we recall that situation if it happens?
I am not insensitive to the effects of tire-related accidents in terms of injuries and loss of life nor to customers' loss of confidence in the product.
However, I know that in 1978 it took (the writer's former employer, Johnny Antonelli Tire in Rochester, N.Y.) 18 months to replace 36,000 recalled Firestone 500s with that company's 721-line of tires.
I also remember that a full 70 percent of the tires that came taken off already had delivered from 50,000 to 70,000 miles of service with no apparent problems.
As a country, we're already plagued with too many scrap tires and bemoaning our dependence on the OPEC cartel for petroleum. (Under such circumstances) destroying an additional 6.5 million Firestone tires without knowing why is simply unconscionable.
Are we going to allow some liberal-minded activists to destroy yet another American manufacturing enterprise? Once again, where are all those "rubber rats" who've made a living selling "America's Tire?"
Whitewash the Firestone recall situation? Hell no! But how about getting more facts and less hysteria?
J.A. DePaolis ("a former `Gum Dipper' and proud of it.")
Vice president of business development
DeCarolis Truck Rental Inc.
Editor's note: Mr. DePaolis formerly was president and CEO of Johnny Antonelli Tire, a Firestone dealership in Rochester, N.Y., and is a past president of the National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association, now known as the Tire Association of North America.
I am concerned with the additional burden Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. has placed on the independent tire dealer who is an "authorized Firestone outlet," as described by BFS Executive Vice President John Lampe in the Aug. 28 article headlined: "BFS' goal: Minimize hassle for consumers."
I have had contact with a number of those dealers who are overwhelmed by the amount of tires they are having to replace and at little or no profit from Bridgestone/Firestone and at increased cost to themselves.
One Firestone dealer was told he would handle the replacements for free or be in violation of federal law!
Meanwhile, their (Firestone dealers') competitors are selling tires for profit—and some at gouging price levels—and then sending the customer down the street to get his/her refund.
How can Bridgestone/Firestone ask these dealers to suffer at such high levels? How long will it take the company to give credit to the dealers for the tires they replaced? Where will dealers get the cash to pay for the tires they had to purchase from other sources since the manufacturer doesn't have enough units to accommodate the recall?
It sure won't come from the sale of other Firestone products since many consumers are running away from any tire with the Firestone name on it.
It looks to me like the independent dealers are getting pummeled for Bridgestone/Firestone's mistakes and that the company has not handled this aspect of the recall well either.
My sympathies are with any independent Firestone dealer.
Big State Tire Supply
Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., in the 1970s, fended off a recall of the Firestone 500 for many months. In the case of the 500, the problem concerned steel belts that were buckling—not peeling away from the tire body in the manner that the current crop of recalled tires are said to do. I knew of one customer who lost the use of three tires in that manner while driving from California to Tennessee.
Our dealership threw away nearly 100 such tires before learning that Firestone intended to pay dealers for replacing them!
Tire industry publications in that day said only about 2 million recalled tires actually were recovered rather than the 14 million cited in your news article and elsewhere.
Ayers Porter Sr.
(retired former owner)
Porter Tire Service
More gov't waste?
The California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB) claims it has a problem with waste tires and needs money to remedy the situation. It has been operating on about $5 million a year—funds derived from a fee placed on new tires at the time of sale.
Tire retailers charge customers the 25-cent fee and are allowed to keep 10 percent of the proceeds.
However, before any money is given out to clean up illegal tire piles, fund additional market research, promote use of crumb rubber in asphalt and other applications that may turn waste tires into a valuable commodity, the CIWMB has to pay the State Board of Equalization (BOE) almost 10 percent for collecting the money from approximately 8,000 fee-collection points.
The BOE also has the task of auditing the paperwork. If the agency finds a merchant doing something wrong, it can fine the merchant and keep the money—none of which goes toward helping solve the state's waste tire problem.
Now the CIWMB wants to increase the fee to $1.00 per tire. The board contends there are 7 million to 8 million discarded tires still awaiting cleanup. Yet it can't prove the existence of even half that number.
What are they going to do with all the money? The CIWMB members say when the scrap tire problem is solved they will lower the fee. But when did government last reduce any fee?
There is a better way to collect such funds: Add $1.00 to the cost of all vehicle registrations. In this way, collection costs would be reduced to zero. Every tire user would have to pay the fee—no one could escape it.
In effect, every registered vehicle would pay the cost of solving the problem it helped create. The operating costs also would be reduced because no one would have to audit the small companies that account for the bulk of the reporting business.
Under Senate Bill No. 876, new and used car lots would be added to the list of existing collection points, increasing their number to 16,000. How much will the BOE charge to collect the money? We hear that they are making a bargain offer of $1.45 million.
At $1.00 per vehicle, the CIWMB will realize about $30 million a year and save more than $2 million in collection costs because they are promising tire dealers 3 percent of each $1.00 collected.
When you talk to state officials, they say the tire fee is a tire tax, yet no one has ever referred to the fee as a tax. We know it isn't popular to add fees to the DMV. But when doing so can save the state at least $2 million a year, imagine how popular it will be with and how much it will save the tax payers and small business owners?
If members of the state assembly's Appropriations Committee truly are truly an appropriations committee, how can they not do the appropriate thing by saving the taxpayers money, getting rid of unhealthy tire piles and getting the yoke of government off the backs of small businesses?
Edwin J. Cohn
Southern Calif. Tire, Automotive & Retread Services Association
Granada Hills, Calif.