WASHINGTON-The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it can't make a decision about whether to investigate possible defects in the Ford Explorer without further data from Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.
The tire maker, however, said its research into the Explorer is ``ongoing,'' and that it will pass the data on to NHTSA as soon as it is ready.
In May, Nashville-based BFS submitted to the safety agency a study it commissioned from Dennis Guenther, an engineering professor at The Ohio State University whose work indicated that the Explorer is prone to oversteer, in turn making it more likely to roll over after a tread separation.
According to agency rules, NHTSA has 120 days to make a decision on a petition for a defect investigation. At the end of September, however, agency officials told Tire Business' sister publication, Automotive News, Reuters and other sources that it didn't think the clock had even begun running on the Explorer, because Bridgestone/Firestone had not turned in a complete petition.
When asked what information NHTSA lacked from BFS, an agency spokesman said: ``You should ask Firestone that. Firestone indicated to us that some additional testing and support data would be forthcoming. I understand they haven't'' (provided it).
NHTSA is proceeding with its own evaluation of the Explorer, but until it has more data from BFS, agency investigators can't act on the tire maker's findings, the spokesman added.
``Guenther's work will continue, and as data become available, we will share them with NHTSA,'' a Bridgestone/Firestone spokeswoman said in response. ``He continues to do research and testing, and his work is ongoing.'' The spokeswoman said she didn't know when Mr. Guenther would issue his further findings.