DETROIT-Bridgestone/Firestone Chairman John T. Lampe met with Ford Motor Co. officials Dec. 10, the first such meeting since Mr. Lampe severed ties with the auto maker last May.
Ford COO Nick Scheele and other Ford executives were present at the Detroit meeting.
``We don't discuss details, but we can say the participants found the discussions fruitful and beneficial,'' a Bridgestone/Firestone spokeswoman said. No further talks have been scheduled, she added.
Officials of BFS' Tokyo-based parent, Bridgestone Corp., paved the way for the Dec. 10 meeting by holding talks with Ford officials the weekend of Nov. 17 in Hawaii. The details of that meeting also were confidential, but reportedly dealt with possible reparations by Bridgestone for the $3 billion Ford spent on its unilateral recall of 13 million Firestone Wilderness AT tires.
Relations between the two companies became increasingly strained after Bridgestone/Firestone announced the recall of 6.5 million Firestone tires in August 2000.
At congressional hearings and elsewhere, then-Ford CEO Jacques Nasser claimed the accidents that cost the lives of 271 people were solely the fault of defective Firestone tires, while Mr. Lampe insisted the design of the Ford Explorer-on which most of the tires were original equipment-was also to blame.
While some observers speculate that the latest meetings mean a healing of the breach between BFS and Ford, one prominent auto-industry analyst-Rod Lache of Deutsche Bank Alex Brown in New York-doesn't think so.
Mr. Lache said a reconciliation between the two companies was ``not crucial'' for either, and said there was ``zero probability'' that it would happen.
``In all likelihood, the discussions are related to concessions Ford is expecting from Firestone,'' he said. ``Ford paid $3 billion for its latest recall, and it is probably telling Firestone, `We can either sue you for $3 billion, or you can cut us a check and save yourself the trouble.'''