NASHVILLE, Tenn.—After all the negative publicity surrounding the Firestone ATX and Wilderness AT tires, Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. is setting about "Making it Right" with consumers.
"Making it Right" is the name of a new action plan for safety and quality control the Nashville-based tire maker has instituted to regain consumer confidence. A comprehensive quality review team, an early warning system, quality enhancement procedures, expanded warranties and $50 million in quality improvements at production facilities are among the features of the program.
"We know every person riding on a Firestone tire wants to feel confident that they will get to their destination safely," said John T. Lampe, Bridgestone/Firestone chairman, president and CEO, in an April 5 press release announcing the action plan. "We believe in our tires, and we want to prove to the American public they should believe in them as well."
Restoring consumer confidence was the pledge Mr. Lampe made upon assuming leadership of BFS last October. He replaced Masatoshi Ono, who resigned in the wake of the scandal that began with reports of tread separations and rollover accidents on Ford Explorers equipped with Firestone ATX and Wilderness tires.
BFS will unveil the "Making it Right" program in a two-part advertising campaign which will appear in print and broadcast media beginning April 6. In the first part of the campaign, Mr. Lampe will appear in ads to describe the plan. "We'll do whatever it takes, however long it takes, to gain your trust," Mr. Lampe says in the ads.
In the second phase, legendary father-son race car drivers Mario and Michael Andretti will discuss tire safety and maintenance, as well as their experiences with Firestone tires both on and off the track.
The ads also will inform consumers about Bridgestone/Firestone's new "Rotate, Inflate, Evaluate" tire safety brochure. They will tell motorists that copies of the brochure—which describes the need for regular tire rotation, proper inflation and frequent inspection—are available free, along with free tire pressure gauges, from Firestone dealers or from the company's new safety-oriented Web site, www.tiresafety.com.
Through this ad campaign—created by Grey Worldwide and set to run until November—BFS plans to reach 80 percent of the U.S. population. The ads will run in major trade publications as well as The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and television networks such as ABC, ESPN and ESPN2.
Shu Ishibashi, BFS executive vice president and U.S. Consumer Tires Group president, is in charge of the "Making it Right" campaign. "Our commitment to `Making it Right' encompasses a broad spectrum of activities we've engaged in with consumers," Mr. Ishibashi said in the April 5 press release.
Among the features of the "Making it Right" action plan are:
A quality review team, consisting of three committees drawn from the company's top managers in its sales, technical service and quality assurance departments;
An early warning system that includes collection, review and analysis of quality assurance data by a team that reports directly to Mr. Lampe, as well as tracking of exported original equipment tires through the creation of a global quality information network;
Standardization of existing BFS quality reviews and computer analysis throughout its global operations, and a strong focus on changing the materials and construction of Firestone tires with special emphasis on sport-utility and light truck tires;
Continuing upgrades of BFS production facilities and processes to respond to consumer requests and anticipated stricter tire regulations, with $50 million earmarked for further quality improvements and product specification changes; and
Expanded warranties on almost all passenger and light truck tires, including a 30-day, unconditional money-back guarantee and a Gold Pledge Limited Warranty which includes the replacement of most aftermarket passenger and light truck tires for up to three or four years if they become unusable due to manufacturer's defect.
BFS announced the recall Aug. 9 of all 15-inch ATX and ATX II radials made anywhere, as well as all 15-inch Wilderness tires made only at the tire maker's facility in Decatur, Ill. The total recalled tire population was 14.4 million, of which BFS estimated that 6.5 million were still on the road.
As of January, the company said it had replaced more than 5.5 million tires and had enough replacement tires on hand to supply all remaining customers caught up in the recall.
Meanwhile, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has traced more than 6,500 accidents and 174 highway deaths to Firestone tires. More than 200 product liability lawsuits against BFS have been consolidated in Indianapolis federal district court.