CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Sept. 26, 2000)—While Ford Motor Co. and Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. are hurling verbal bricks at each other during public hearings, the car maker and Continental General Tire Inc. seem to be building a solid relationship.
The companies went out of their way to praise one another Sept. 19 when CGT said it will recall approximately 160,000 ContiTrac AS tires used on Lincoln Navigators following meetings between the tire maker, Ford and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The decision came amidst Senate and House probes into the recall of 6.5 million Firestone ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tires made by Bridgestone/Firestone. However, CGT´s action is not related to the Bridgestone/ Firestone tire investigation, a NHTSA spokesman cautioned.
"It´s (CGT and Ford´s) action," he said, and purely voluntary. "They came in and presented their stuff to us. They´re not tied into the federal investigation. They decided to make the recall."
CGT said it was launching the recall because some 16-inch ContiTrac AS tires mounted on the Navigator are susceptible to heat stress which can create belt lift in the shoulder of the tire. That can cause a section of the tread belt package to detach from the tire casing which results in damage to the vehicle.
About 140,000 original equipment ContiTrac AS tires, size P245/75R16, mounted on approximately 38,000 Lincoln Navigators, model years 1998 and 1999, and another 20,000 replacement tires are involved in the recall, according to CGT. The tires, manufactured at the firm´s Mayfield, Ky., plant, will be replaced without charge, the company said.
Three tires have been designated as replacements: ContiTrac AS Contact P245/75R16, Grabber AW P255/70R16 and Ameri 660 AS P255/70R16.
The recall does not cover 17-inch ContiTrac AS tires, size P255/75R17, used on the Navigator, CGT said, and only 16-inch ContiTrac AS tires made prior to 1998 are involved. The Charlotte-based company said it has made changes to improve the manufacturing defect since 1998.
Actually, a CGT spokeswoman maintained, the company´s current action is not a recall. "We have a Customer Satisfaction Program going on," she said. "We are replacing tires, that´s correct. But it´s not really a recall."
CGT and other suppliers began reviewing the performance of their products at the request of Ford, a spokesman for the car maker´s Lincoln-Mercury Division said.
"We asked them to look at their warranty and claims data," he said. "And they found they had about 62 damage claims, but no catastrophic tire failures, no fatalities, no serious injury and only one report of minor injury."
When the tire manufacturer spotted an increase in its claims and warranty data for the ContiTrac AS tire, primarily minor vehicle damage caused by chunks of the tire, "we felt we had to take a closer look at it," the spokeswoman said. The company contacted Lincoln officials with its findings "and we decided to take the initiative and replace those tires," she said.
Approximately 10,000 ContiTrac AS tires are presently at Lincoln dealers, the spokeswoman said, and the remainder will be shipped over the next few weeks.
It should take between six weeks and two months to complete the project, a Lincoln spokeswoman said.
"Tires will be inspected and if they need to be replaced we should be able to do it immediately. I don´t think there will be long waiting lines," she said.
Although reports had circulated that it would cost CGT $10 million to fund the recall, the company´s spokeswoman said it´s likely the figure will be closer to the $1 million range.
CGT "has done an outstanding job working on the problem, analyzing data and meeting with NHTSA," the Lincoln spokesman said.
And the tire maker returned the compliment. "We´ve been working with (Ford/Lincoln) from the beginning and we´ve had their full cooperation," the spokeswoman said. "We went to NHTSA with them and they were very supportive."