DEARBORN, Mich. (June 8, 2001)— Ford Motor Co. still is deciding what it will do with the 13 million Firestone Wilderness AT tires it has chosen to replace on its vehicles.
As of late last week, the company had not provided a comprehensive plan to its 3,500 Ford and Lincoln Mercury dealerships to collect and recycle or dispose of the tires, a Ford spokeswoman said. The lack of a plan, however, didn't seem to bother some dealerships who already are replacing tires from vehicles on their lots and collecting and replacing tire for customers.
Clarke Ford, a dealership in Hudson, Ohio, is puncturing all Firestone tires it handles and will wait until Ford makes a decision on how its dealerships should dispose of or recycle the scrapped tires, said Bob Kline, assistant manager of the service department. Though the dealership could collect 2,000 or more tires during the replacement, collecting and disposing of them will not be an issue.
“We've got a pretty big lot, so there's really no problem storing the tires,” Mr. Kline said.
Ford's replacement, which the company announced last week, covers twice as many tires as Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. recalled last year. Last summer, BFS's disposal plan for the 6.5 million recalled tires involved shredding them into crumb rubber or burning them as fuel. A BFS spokeswoman in Nashville, Tenn., said the tire maker won't take part in any aspect of Ford's replacement plan.
Carl Bujorian, service director for Klaben Ford Inc. in Kent, Ohio said: “Hopefully, we can do some good for the customers and they'll perceive it that way. Hopefully, a lot of people see it as a good, positive step forward rather than something that Ford's begrudgingly doing.”
Ford advised the Kent dealership to use its normal disposal channels for now, Mr. Bujorian said. Klaben, which plans to rent a rolloff container to store the Firestone tires, already is checking out waste haulers and tire processing companies to make sure those companies are properly permitted and licensed. The dealership went through the same process last year during last summer's Firestone recall when it collected heavy volumes of tires. “We just had to call them up today and say, 'Here we go again,'” he said.
Consumer advocacy groups, who had pushed for a wider recall, are concerned about the fate of the replaced tires. They must be destroyed to avoid affected tires from finding their way back to the road, said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, in Washington. The advocacy group also would like to see the tires recycled properly, so they don't create more problems.
However, the large volume of scrap tires entering the waste stream from Ford's replacement plan may not be an problem, said John R. Serumgard, chairman of the Scrap Tire Management Council in Washington. The replaced tires will represent less than 5 percent of the 280 million scrap tires in the waste stream. However, the speed with which Ford deals with the situation could cause a backup.
“Supposedly, they're going to push this through rather rapidly,” Mr. Serumgard said.
On May 22, Ford announced it would replace all 15-, 16- and 17-inch Firestone Wilderness AT tires on Ford products. The auto maker is concerned that some of the tires, though not affected by last year's recall, could experience similar tread separation problems. Ford described the replacement as a precautionary measure, saying it does not have sufficient confidence in the future performance of the tires.
The company has studied data from Firestone and has worked with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and conducted its own testing, said Ford President and CEO Jacques Nasser.
“Taken together, all the data and analysis do not give us sufficient confidence in the future durability and performance of the non-recalled Wilderness AT tires on our vehicles,” he said.
Mr. Truini writes for Waste News, a sister publication of Tire Business.