NASHVILLE, Tenn.—The end is in sight for the Firestone recall, according to officials of Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.
But Ford Motor Co. said a slowdown in consumer demand is hampering the replacement of the last of the 6.5 million Firestone ATX and Wilderness AT tires.
As of Nov. 28, BFS had replaced 5.5 million of the recalled tires, the Nashville-based tire maker said in a press release. It had a sufficient supply of replacement tires for the remaining 1 million, and except for smaller markets, mostly in the Midwest and upper Northeast, it had eliminated the waiting lists for tires.
Those dealers still with waiting lists were mostly independents who lacked "the physical capacity to install replacement tires as rapidly as we would prefer," said John T. Lampe, BFS chairman and CEO, in the press release. The company is working with its dealer network in those areas to accommodate consumers, he added.
Mr. Lampe—whose first vow upon taking the top job at BFS in October was to complete the recall by the end of November—heralded the new milestone as extraordinary.
"This remarkable achievement underscores the commitment all of us at Bridgestone/Firestone have to regaining the public's full confidence," he said. "When we initiated this effort in August, everyone believed it might take at least a year to reach this point."
Yet a Ford spokesman said the most difficult thing at this point is to get the remaining ATX and Wilderness tire owners through the doors of the 13,000 Firestone and Ford dealerships handling the recall.
"The supply of tires exceeded the demand for tires about mid-November," the spokesman said. "That's why we've initiated a national campaign to alert the remaining consumers."
Ford began a series of print ads over Thanksgiving weekend in major newspapers around the U.S., the spokesman said. A Ford official in charge of the ad campaign could not be reached for comment.
The Ford spokesman said he wasn't sure why consumers were no longer responding to the recall. A BFS spokesman said he couldn't speak to Ford's statement but added: "All I know is that as long as there's a recalled tire in the marketplace, we will strive to get it replaced."
BFS isn't projecting any official end-date for the recall, but having enough tires on hand to complete the program "is certainly an important milestone," he said.
In the press release, Mr. Lampe said an internal Firestone team is still working to find the root causes of the tread separations that led to the recall, as is Sanjay Govindjee, the University of California engineering professor BFS hired to study the problem. Mr. Lampe said he expects the internal team to complete its investigation before the end of the year.