WASHINGTON (May 22, 2001)—Ford CEO Jacques Nasser was meeting with congressional committee chairmen and ranking Democrats over the lunch hour prior to flying back to Detroit to announce his company's decision regarding a further recall of Firestone tires.
Mr. Nasser has been discussing Ford's recall plans in successive meetings with Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee; Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee; and Rep. John D. Dingell, D-Mich., ranking Democrat on House Energy and Commerce.
All three legislators played a major role in the hearings on accidents involving Firestone tires on Ford Explorers last September, and in obtaining passage of the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD)Act last year.
According to various sources, Ford is poised to unilaterally recall up to 13 million Firestone tires in addition to the 6.5 million Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. already recalled. Ford has scheduled a press conference with Mr. Nasser for 5 p.m. today.
Meanwhile, Mr. Tauzin, as chairman of the House Commerce Committee, is calling for additional public hearings on the matter.
News reports quote Mr. Tauzin as saying that during his meeting with Ford, the auto maker provided statistics indicating that Firestone Wilderness AT tires not included in the recall failed at a rate of 15 per million tires—three times the industry rate.
Mr. Tauzin said Ford´s proposal to widen the existing recall could cost the auto maker up to $3 billion and take nine months to complete.
BFS Chairman John Lampe, in a prepared statement, said BFS looks forward to testifying at a new round of hearings.
“We applaud Chairman Tauzin's call for additional hearings,” Mr. Lampe said. “As I told Chairman Tauzin last evening, we believe there are significant safety concerns with a substantial segment of Ford Explorers. We look forward to presenting our information to the committee and showing them our tires are safe.”
Mr. Tauzin said he would schedule new hearings as soon as possible after Memorial Day; a spokeswoman for the Louisiana congressman said Mr. Tauzin will confer with relevant subcommittee chairmen before setting dates.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Michelin North America Inc. has confirmed that Ford has contacted Michelin about helping supply replacement tires for the further recall. The extent of the firm´s aid still is being decided, she said.