DEARBORN, Mich.—Ford Motor Co. will join General Motors Corp. in warranting the tires on its vehicles.
Beginning with the 2001 model year, Ford will warrant tires on Ford, Lincoln and Mercury cars and light trucks.
The move—which comes after months of embroilment in the tire recall undertaken by Bridge-stone/Firestone Inc.—brings tires under Ford's bumper-to-bumper warranty. The coverage will begin with repairs made on or after Jan. 1, extending three years or 36,000 miles for Ford and Mercury cars and light trucks and four years or 50,000 miles for Lincoln vehicles.
Ford did not disclose what it will pay to become primary warranter of the original equipment tires on its vehicles, but said the cost will not impact the consumer's price.
"There is a cost to Ford," a warranty spokesman for the auto maker said. "We are not prorating tires; you'll get a one-for-one replacement. If there's a defect, we'll bill it back to the tire company and they'll prorate it for us."
Other vehicle makers say they now may look at covering the tires.
"When the two biggest car companies in America make that decision, we would look at it," a Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. spokesman said.
To date, GM has been the only vehicle maker to include tires under its warranty. The Detroit-based car company began covering the original equipment tires on its vehicles in Canada in 1990, and in the U.S. in 1995 with its Cadillac line before expanding it to all passenger vehicles and light trucks the following year.
Having early access to claims data helped GM identify a problem with tires produced at its Cuernavaca, Mexico, plant, the company said.
"It was really parallel paths because Firestone implemented their early detection on problems, too," a GM spokesman said.
GM returned three tires to Firestone's warranty return center as part of its general procedure. Firestone's analysis, coupled with GM's turned up the problems, he said.
It took GM and the tire maker only 16 claims—three from GM dealers and 13 from Firestone dealers—to raise a red flag.
"There's no question that the fact we warranty our tires helped us detect this trend before it became a problem, and importantly, before anyone got hurt," the GM spokesman said.
But would Ford have been able to detect the Firestone tire problems if it had been warranting tires earlier?
"We don't know; we just don't know," the Ford spokesman said. "We're taking this step as part of this larger, early warning system on tire performance in order to prevent issues like this from ever happening on our vehicles again."
But customer satisfaction is also part of it. "When GM launched their tire warranty back in 1996, we looked at it, we thought about doing it, but customers were telling us it was not a big factor as far as their satisfaction. Today, it is," the Ford spokesman said.
By covering the tires, Ford would have access to warranty claims data that could forecast potential safety issues. Ford CEO Jacques Nasser said during the congressional hearings this fall that not having claims or warranty data from Bridgestone/Firestone was a large part of Ford's difficulty in identifying the tires as defective.
"If we were to warrant our own tires, we would be closer to the data, because we would be active in obtaining it, and. it would end the divide of everything being covered but the tires," a Ford spokesman said at the time.