WASHINGTON (June 19, 2001) — A Transportation Department official told law makers Tuesday U.S. auto safety regulators may open an investigation into the Ford Explorer, and they will complete a probe of Firestone tires sooner than expected.
The news came as Ford Motor Co. CEO Jac Nasser testified before two congressional subcommittees of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. In May he called for the replacement of 13 million Firestone Wilderness AT tires on Ford vehilces not included in last year´s recall.
Mr. Nasser was asked about government data that suggests Ford would replace some Firestone tires with tires of poorer quality. Mr. Nasser said he only saw the data Tuesday morning, but the auto maker will study it and "will act" if necessary.
Deputy Transportation Secretary Michael Jackson, in written testimony, said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is conducting an analysis to determine if a formal investigation into the Explorer is warranted. Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. has requested that the government investigate Ford´s popular sport-utility vehicle.
Mr. Jackson also said NHTSA´s investigation into whether to expand last year´s recall of 6.5 million Firestone tires — many fitted as standard equipment on Explorers — will close earlier than expected. Testing will be completed by the end of next week and results announced in a month, Mr. Jackson said.