WASHINGTON (Sept. 12, 2000)—Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. admits there are defects in a tiny portion of the 6.5 million tires it recalled, but feels there also are problems with the Ford Explorer, according to BFS Executive Vice President John Lampe.
"We take full responsibility for the tire failures," Mr. Lampe told a hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee. "We firmly believe, however, that the tire is only part of the overall safety problem."
Federal data report some 16,000 rollover accidents and 600 deaths involving the Explorer, he noted, and "only a very, very small percentage" involve tire failures.
In a press conference after the hearing, Mr. Lampe said BFS believes the defect may lie with "an aspect of the design combined with a process variability," and that it may deal with a belt in the tire.
The company has hired Sanjay Govindee, an associate engineering professor at the University of California-Berkeley, to review BFS´ analysis to date, he said.
BFS did sign off in 1989 on Ford Motor Co.´s recommendation of 26 psi for original equipment tires on the Explorer, "but in hindsight, maybe it´s something we´d want to reconsider," Mr. Lampe said.
He also questioned Ford CEO Jacques Nasser´s contention that Goodyear OE tires on the Explorer have experienced no failures, citing a document submitted to Congress that shows the opposite.
Nevertheless, Mr. Lampe refused to blame Ford: "How can I put the blame on someone else when I admit there was something we should have been more careful with?" he said.