WASHINGTON-Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. needs to take back an additional 10 million tires not included in last August's recall, contends a report newly issued by the group Public Citizen and the plaintiff's attorney for the Web site Safetyforum.com.
But accidents involving Firestone light truck tires mounted on Ford Explorers are ``largely the responsibility of Ford Motor Co.,'' Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook said while unveiling the report at an April 25 press conference.
The report, The Real Root Cause of the Ford-Firestone Tragedy: Why the Public is Still at Risk, analyzes data which Public Citizen and Safetyforum.com said Ford and BFS ignored when compiling their own reports.
These statistics, according to the report, show that Firestone tires not involved in the recall were just as likely to fail-if not more so-as the 6.5 million recalled ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tires.
Some of the allegedly faulty tires were used to replace the recalled ones, according to Ms. Claybrook, Safetyforum.com Director Ralph Hoar and Little Rock, Ark., plaintiffs' attorney C. Tab Turner, who is the attorney of record on tire issues for Safetyforum.com.
In the beginning, ``Ford designed a vehicle that was prone to rolling over-the Bronco II-and the company refused to fix it,'' Ms. Claybrook said. ``Then, Ford built the Explorer using a virtually identical design theme.
``Ford also drew up the specifications for the now-infamous Firestone tires with treads that unexpectedly separate,'' she said.
``It was Ford that decided to put a car tire on a pickup truck chassis, which strained the tire. And it was Ford that recommended a low inflation pressure and then demanded the weight of the tire be reduced to improve fuel economy-measures that contributed to the tire's propensity to shred.''
But BFS must also be held to account for its role in the problem, she added.
``It was Firestone that agreed to manufacture the tire despite the fact that the tire was inadequate for the vehicle,'' she said. ``And between lawsuits and warranty data, Firestone had plenty of notice that the tire had grave deficiencies, but it never told the public or initiated a recall.''
The Public Citizen-Safetyforum. com report backed to a certain extent the studies made by a BFS internal team and by Sanjay Govindjee, a University of California engineering professor hired by BFS as a third-party expert to analyze the recalled tires.
The BFS and Govindjee reports identified a number of causes for the problems that led to tread separations and rollover accidents, including design problems in the tires' belt edge area, design problems with the Explorer, manufacturing problems with the tires and low tire pressures.
But Ms. Claybrook, Mr. Hoar and Mr. Turner insisted BFS didn't go far enough in its analysis or its recall.
They urged Bridgestone/Firestone to recall all 15- and 16-inch Wilderness tires-a call they have made several times since the recall of the 15-inch Decatur-made Wilderness tires began.
They also called on Ford, in Ms. Claybrook's words, ``to launch an owner notification program and a public information campaign to inform Explorer owners of the dangerous propensity for the vehicles to roll over, as well as the difficulty in controlling an Explorer when a tire tread separates.''
Christine Sagrista, of Deltona, Fla., also appeared at the press conference with her 4-year-old son Christopher.
In November 1999, Ms. Sagrista was severely injured when her 1997 Ford Explorer-equipped with 15-inch Wilderness tires from the BFS plant in Wilson-suffered a tread separation and rolled over.
Christopher's twin brother, Alex-who was two at the time-was killed in the accident.
In response to the groups' charges, a BFS spokesman said: ``We disagree with the (Public Citizen) report, and we stand by the results of our independent research.''
A Ford spokesman said: ``We continue to work closely with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Any group with information should be sharing it with NHTSA.''