NASHVILLE (April 13, 2001)— Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. expects the company's new advertising blitz to help it move beyond the stormy publicity of last year´s Firestone tire recall.
But BFS CEO John Lampe believes better communications between automotive companies will help prevent problems like the Firestone controversy from happening again.
Mr. Lampe said Bridgestone/Firestone responded to last year´s crisis by better integrating its operating units and its access to customer information, by improving the standardization of its procedures, and through better communication.
"We must do it internally, but also as an industry," Mr. Lampe said, speaking at the Automotive News New American Manufacturing Conference in Nashville, April 10.
"The industry must get more integrated and seamless," he said.
BFS, the U.S. subsidiary of Japan´s Bridgestone Corp. recalled 6.5 million ATX and Wilderness light truck tires because of higher-than-normal failure rates. The recall stung the entire Firestone line, depressing the brand´s aftermarket sales and costing parent Bridgestone some $450 million in recall-related expenses. One result was a management shuffle at the U.S. operations that elevated Mr. Lampe to president, chairman and CEO of BFS.
The U.S. company launched a massive ad campaign April 6 to reassure consumers and the auto industry that the tire recall is behind it. Mr. Lampe declined to say how much money has been budgeted for the campaign, which will consist of TV spots and print ads in major media this year.
Much of the negative publicity of the recall focused on Ford Explorers, which were equipped with the recalled Firestone tires and were susceptible to rollovers.
Mr. Lampe said Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. is "working very hard to maintain that relationship" with Ford Motor Co.
He said the company performed well in reaction to the recall. Bridgestone´s original forecasts were that
But he added: "In looking back, I would never be satisfied to say we moved quickly enough."
In the future, Mr. Lampe said, problems can be avoided if manufacturers make better use of internal communication tools, and if the entire industry attempts to communicate together. The recall focused a glaring light on the industry´s difficulty in sharing consumer data and warranty claims among companies.
Mr. Lampe, who recently became the first American named to the Bridgestone board of directors in Jr.apan, said he now will work to push Firestone into a larger global market share. He noted that from 1992 to 2000, Firestone sales and its market share doubled in North America and said there is no plan to phase out the 100-year-old Firestone brand name. He vowed that Firestone sales will grow again.
"There never was, there is not now and there never will be" a plan to discontinue the Firestone brand, he said. "To the contrary, it´s my plan to take that brand forward and restore it."