NASHVILLE, Tenn.—We shall overcome.
That was the message Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. executives told independent commercial tire dealers at the Bizcon 5 meeting on Sept. 18 in Nashville, reassuring them that BFS remains a strong company that will overcome the recall of 6.5 million light truck and sport-utility vehicle tires.
"I wish to extend to all of you our deepest apologies for the many difficulties this recall has created," said John Lampe, BFS executive vice president.
However, Mr. Lampe also blamed the news media for giving the public "assumptions and opinions, rather than the facts of the case."
"It's unfortunate that, in many instances, the facts we have provided have not been revealed," he said. "We manufacture world-class quality products."
BFS has spent millions to find the cause of the problem, Mr. Lampe said, noting the company "will not rest.|.|.|until the cause, the facts and the truth are given to the American consumer."
Chief Administrative Officer Mike Fujimura told dealers that Ford Motor Co. "is a part of our heritage.
"I do not understand, however, what can be gained for the customer when one company seeks to distance itself from another.
"Why has Ford awarded so many quality awards to Firestone?"
Mr. Fujimura, who sits on the board of parent Bridgestone Corp., reassured dealers: "We do not walk away from our old friends at Firestone."
Many dealers at Bizcon said commercial sales of Firestone-brand truck tires have been unaffected by fallout from the recall.
Steve Burhenn, executive vice president of Becker Tire and Treading Inc. in Great Bend, Kan., said there had been no impact on Firestone truck tire sales. "The attitude of the dealer could make it a problem," he said.
Nick Vuko of Walker Tire Co. in Lincoln, Neb., said his dealership sells mostly Bridgestone truck tires, but he hadn't observed much impact on Firestone sales.
"I don't think they relate it (the recall) to truck tires," said Fred Burklund of Walker Tire's Omaha, Neb., location.
Charlie Cate of Cate-McLaurin Tire in Columbia, S.C., said the recall has had some impact on Firestone truck tire sales in his area—mostly among smaller dealers. Larger dealers and fleet customers are more know- ledgeable and less influenced by the recall, he said.
"Following the recall, we had one of the best months we've ever had on Firestone truck tires," said Rick Skinner, director of marketing for Bridgestone/Firestone Truck Tire Sales Co.