TOKYO (Nov. 21, 2001) — The top executives of Bridgestone Corp., parent of Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., and Ford Motor Co. met in Honolulu the weekend of Nov. 17-18 in a step towards reconciliation after the two companies had severed ties over the recall of Firestone tires on Ford Explorers.
Shigeo Watanabe, Bridgestone's CEO, met with Ford COO Nick Scheele, according to Taiji Nishijima, a Bridgestone spokesman. The meeting marked the first high-level talks between the two companies since they terminated their century-old supply relationship in May.
“It seems like they had amicable discussions,” said Mr. Nishijima, who declined to provide other details about the meeting.
Bridgestone and Ford, the world's second-largest auto maker, agreed to have further meetings, with Bridgestone/Firestone Chairman and CEO John Lampe participating next time. Those talks haven't been scheduled yet.
Interviewed on Nov. 6 by Automotive News, a sister publication of Tire Business, Mr. Watanabe said formation of new management at Ford could give Bridgestone “a chance” to be reconciled with the auto maker.
According to a Reuters story published by Automotive News, analysts believe the talks between Mr. Watanabe and Mr. Scheele centered on Ford's demand for cash to cover the cost of its massive recalls of Firestone tires. The Dearborn, Mich.-based car maker has spent $2.6 billion on a program replacing 13 million Firestone tires on Ford vehicles since last year.
While confirming the Honolulu meeting took place, Ken Kitawaki, a Bridgestone Corp. spokesman in Bridgestone/Firestone's Nashville, Tenn., headquarters, declined to comment to Tire Business on the content of the discussions, other than to call the meeting “meaningful, fruitful and productive.”