AKRON—Nearly 100 yeas ago, Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone vacationed together at the Huron Mountain Club, about 30 miles from John Wagner's Firestone Tire Sales and Service store in Marquette, Mich. A century later their descendents are doing the Hatfields and McCoys proud.
In the wake of Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.'s far-from amicable divorce from Ford Motor Co., tire dealer support for BFS is passionate and poignant.
“I just thought, 'It was about time,'” said Steve Gray of Gray's Wholesale Tire Distributor in Forth Worth, Texas. “It seemed to me that they were having to walk on egg shells because of the relationship. I think it was just like, OK, the gloves were coming off. It's a shame it couldn't have been handled behind closed doors.”
If there is one other overwhelmingly common sentiment, it's that dealers have seen few recalled tires with any abnormal tread separation, according to those questioned by Tire Business.
“As a retailer I don't believe there is a widespread problem,” said Dave Jenkins, owner of Tom Frost Firestone in Warrenton, Va. “I have not seen one of these tires fail as such.”
“You've got the same tire on different vehicles and only one of the vehicles has a problem,” he continued. “It's 'Common Sense 101' to me.”
That's what is frustrating some dealers. Many tell stories about replacing recalled tires that had 70,000 miles or more on them.
John Seckman of Stoney Hollow Tire Inc., in Martins Ferry, Ohio, compared the current recalls to those more than two decades ago of the ill-fated Firestone 500. “Everyone in the country knew there was a problem (with the 500) because you got them in your shop,” he said. But like many other dealers, he has found little wrong with tires covered in the recent recalls.
The following are some edited comments from other dealers:
“It's not just a tire problem. There's no justification with what goes on with Explorers, and I know they're going to continue to have a problem. We all know what the air pressure issue is. The problem is, the general public doesn't find that stuff out.”—Patrick Purcell, Purcell Brothers Firestone, Batavia, Ill.
“I think it's sad because (Firestone and Ford) have one of the longest relationships in the business world. It's a shame these companies can't find common ground.”—John Tidwell, sales manager, Mike Gatto Inc., Melbourne, Fla.
“Is it going to hurt our business? Absolutely. We have two big Ford plants down the road. They make the Explorers there.… I have never seen one (tire) blow out. I have never seen one separate. Now we're getting people, when they have a flat,…coming in and saying, 'This tire separated. It blew out.' And it has a nail in it or something. The first thing they want is a brand new Firestone.” —Mike Smith, Smith Firestone, New Albany, IN.
“I've changed some recall tires, on Ford Explorers, with 108,000 miles on them.…”—John C. Wagner, president, Firestone Tire Sales and Service, Marquette, Mich.
“Is this a black eye? Yes. Can it be overcome? I believe it can be.”—Terry Chambers, West Coast Tire, Long Beach, Calif.